Discover one of the world’s oldest cities and the Greek capital. Athens awaits with a heady mix of the classic and modern, created over a history that dates back around 3,400 years. Dominating the region of Attica, Athens overlooks the Eastern Mediterranean while its inhabitants go about their daily lives surrounded by centuries-old structures.
In 1985 Athens was recognized as the “Capital of Culture” and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. A tale of two cities, the Greek capital is part Greek Antiquity architectural complexes and part gritty, urban energy tempered by a natural geniality that flows from the tavernas and cafes lining the city streets. Socializing has always been big business in Athens and the Greeks enjoy a drink consumed over several hours accompanied by nibbles or meze and non-stop discourse on any topic. The streets remain lively until the small hours with people conversing and dining on the street, clubbing on the beach or enjoying some form of outdoor entertainment.
There is no shortage of activities in Athens for the sporty and the outdoorsy. The city has a rich sporting tradition steeped in history and high-standard sporting facilities throughout the city including the marble Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1846, riding, sailing and tennis clubs. The most prominent annual event is the legendary Athens Marathon, the Authentic – a bridge that unifies the legend with history in a challenging course run entirely on asphalt over level, uphill and downhill terrain.
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How to get from the airport to Athens?
Open 24 hours, Athens Airport is 27 km (17 miles) east of the capital and is well-connected to the city, with a choice of express bus, suburban Metro trains and taxi available. Travel time by train is approximately 30 minutes and 45 minutes by express bus. Local Athens taxis are canary yellow with reasonable fares and are located outside the terminals.
What about getting around the city?
It is easy to get around Athens on the public transportation network. The city has an integrated system, which means tickets are valid across all modes of public transportation in the city. You can purchase tickets for public transport at every station.
What else is good to know?
Tickets for public transportation must be validated prior to boarding. Ticket inspectors are diligent and will not hesitate to hit you with a big fine and/or ring in assistance when faced with objections.
What is the currency used in Greece?
The EURO replaced the Greek drachma in 2001.
Athens attractions: Classic and contemporary
Athens is full of iconic symbols of Western civilization and awaits your visit with an exhilarating mix of vibrant energy tempered by a gritty yet genial undertone. Athens enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with plentiful sunshine year-round. We collected the most recommended attractions of Athens for you:
- Mount Lycabettus
- Acropolis Museum, Frissiras Museum and Museum of Greek Folk Art
- The Acropolis
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Port of Piraeus
- Athens street art
Head to the summit of Mount Lycabettus in Kolonaki and marvel at the landscape sprawling at your feet. A walk up this 227-meter (745-foot) hill takes 2-3 hours. For a less physical approach, take the funicular tramway to the top for the best views of Athens and the Aegean.
Plaka is the historic heart of Athens nestled at the foot of the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis. Wander its labyrinthine streets, admire neoclassical architecture or visit one of the many museums that call Plaka home including the Acropolis Museum, Frissiras Museum and Museum of Greek Folk Art.
For something a little different, head up Mount Lycabettus in time for sunset and wait for the lights of the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium and Ancient Agora to come on. You’ll also find the Agios Georgios (St. George) Church at the summit, which has a viewing platform inside.
Approximately 12 km (7 miles) from central Athens is the ancient port of Piraeus along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf. Today the streets of Athens have imperceptibly merged with those of its still bustling port, but here you’ll find well-preserved parts of the Themistoclean Walls and Eetioneia, the ancient gate to the harbor and part of the fortification of Piraeus built during the Peloponnesian War. Make the journey in time for a glass of ouzo while watching the spectacular sunset over the port.
If modern street art is your thing, take an alternative tour of the Athens street art scene – one of Europe’s hottest centers for street art featuring both local and international artists. Discover the coolest urban areas in Athens while learning about the meaning behind the art and how each relates to the current social and economic situation in the Greek capital.
More attractions in Athens
Athens is enveloped by mountains, and the city itself is built over 12 hills, all of which provide outstanding panoramic views out to the Saronic Gulf and “Athenian Riviera” on the southern coast. Seven of the 12 Athenian hills have historic and cultural significance. The two most prominent are the Acropolis of Athens and Mount Lycabettus. The marble Parthenon is one of the most iconic and universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization. Visible from most places in Athens, it sits regally atop the Acropolis overlooking the city sprawling below. The Acropolis is also home to several other monuments including the Temple of Athena Nike and Erechtheion with its famous “Porch of Caryatids”. Classics and history buffs are spoilt for choice in the Greek capital.
The Athenian landscape is bursting with culturally and architecturally significant monuments and structures. You’ll find the colossal Temple of the Olympian Zeus in central Athens at the site of an ancient outdoor sanctuary dedicated to the head of the Olympian Gods. The best-known example of an ancient Greek agora is the Ancient Agora of Classical Athens, northwest of the Acropolis. The streets around the Acropolis and ancient agora are pedestrianized, making it easy to explore on foot and gather Instagram-worthy content from many angles at your own pace.
Find out more about Athens' attractions in our guide.
Mediterranean culinary delights in Athens
The culinary landscape in Athens is where Eastern influences and Western influences join age-old tradition. The ingredients that characterize Athenian cuisine – fresh vegetables, fish, seafood and lamb – along with generous quantities of olive oil – are abundant and flavors change depending on the season.
Food markets are often the best place to experience the essence of the culinary culture of a city, mingle with the locals and discover a genuine side of the city. Varvakios Agorà (Central Market) is the perfect place to try Greek specialties and pick up culinary souvenirs and edible delights. Saturdays in Athens belong to the farmers’ markets and you’ll find one in every neighborhood.
Whether you spend your time in Athens urban exploring, urban racing or urban sightseeing, you’ll no doubt need revitalization at the end of your day. The culinary landscape in Athens is a gift from the gods and the stuff of legend – spanakopita, baklava, moussaka, souvlaki, dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves), choriatiki (Greek salad) and Ellinikos aka Greek coffee, which is not for the faint of heart. Whatever your flavor, you’ll find it in Athens.
Read more tips about eat and drink in Athens.
Shopping in Athens
Retail therapy in Athens is a breeze thanks to the pedestrianization of the cobblestone streets in the central city. Ermou Street is the main shopping street in Athens, home to both local and foreign designers and one of the most expensive places for retail therapy in Europe. About half a mile down Ermou Street heading west is the historic Monastiraki Square and home to the Athens Flea Market – a jumble of stalls and outlets selling artisanal soaps, handmade sandals, souvenirs and more. In the streets around Monastiraki Square, you’ll find countless traditional tavernas and restaurants where you can take a break at the foot of the Acropolis.
Boston - ZurichFlight duration: 07:15 hrs total, Frequency: 1 x daily
Departure BostonTerminal: ECounter opening time: 3 h prior to departure
Airbus A340-300Height: 16.80 mLength: 63.70 mSeats: 219
Crew:Pilots: 2Cabin crew: 10
Transit Zurich (ZRH)Arrival: 11:00Transit time: 2h 05m
Zurich - AthensFlight duration: 02:35 hrs total, Frequency: 7 x daily
Airbus A321-111Height: 11.80 mLength: 44.50 mSeats: 176-200
Crew:Pilots: 2Cabin crew: 5
Arrival AthensDistance to city centre: 33 km