In the busy Greek capital Athens, deciding where to go and what to do can be quite overwhelming – especially for first-time visitors who have limited time. So in this Athens Guide, I share my best tips on how to make the most of limited time in Athens… film fan style!
Athens as a Film Location
The film tells the story of a stressed-out, poorly paid Greek Tour Guide played by Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). And just like in the film, I found myself among many other tourists that were trying to get a glimpse at this ancient temple complex.
Nevertheless, the Acropolis was a must-do on my Greece Travel List. And it surely made an impression on me. Read on below for more tips about visiting these fascinating Greek ruins…
When to go to Athens
The main season for travelling to Athens spans from April to October. July and August are generally the busiest months, so May might be a good time to beat the crowds and enjoy pleasantly warm, yet not too hot weather. I visited in mid-June, which was ok, too.
Remember that everywhere in Athens, and especially at the Acropolis, it will get pretty hot throughout the summer months. So don't forget your bottle of water (you can buy a small 0,5 l bottle at every corner for 50 Cents), sunglasses, sunscreen and hat (even though that makes you look like a tourist from miles away). I my opinion, it's always better to be safe than sorry. And you surely won't be the only one dressed like this. 😉
Things to do in Athens
1. Visit the Acropolis
As already mentioned, this was my number 1 bucket list item for my trip to Athens. But, of course, it is also on top of the list for many other people coming to Athens.
Thus, you should bear in mind that this activity will be pretty busy and also quite costly. Just the entry ticket to the Acropolis currently costs 20 Euros.
If you like to get a bit more background information about the ruins and their history (which I highly recommend), you should also book a guided walking tour.
2. Check out the Acropolis Museum
After walking around in the burning Athens heat, it was great to enjoy some air-conditioned exhibition space while looking at ancient Greek statues.
Entrance to the adjacent Acropolis Museum is extra, but at 5 Euros for an adult pretty reasonably priced.
You are not allowed to take photos inside, but the replicas at the museum shop have no problem with being snapped. 🙂
3. Explore other world-class museums
Some museums also offer free entry on certain days. You can ask about any current offers at the Athens Tourist Information office or your hotel or hostel.
4. Hop on a sightseeing bus
Because Athens is so big and I had only one and a half days in the city, I decided to skip a classic walking tour on the ground and instead buy a 24 hour ticket for one of the city's Hop On / Hop Off busses (20 Euros).
5. Experience the cradle of Democracy
In addition to using the busses, my Hop On / Hop Off bus ticket also allowed me to join three included walking tours with a guide.
I chose the "Democracy Walk", which took me to a really nice place located close to the Acropolis, yet a lot quieter.
This was the very spot where democracy was invented and where the ancient Greek parliament stood.
6. Watch an open-air film in the summer
I didn't do this due to lack of time, but apparently there are many open-air cinema screenings during the summer. One is supposed to be pretty close to the Acropolis.
If you're interested, just ask at the tourist information or your hostel or hotel for more info.
7. Catch the changing of the guards
You might see the guards in their traditional uniforms from the Hop On / Hop Off bus.
I saw them twice from the bus and got some good pictures and videos when the bus stopped at a red traffic light right in front of the Hellenic Parliament.
For more information on times and the place, check out this section about changing the guards on Greeka.com.
Where to stay
I stayed at Bedbox Hostel – a good-priced and centrally located hostel. From here you can walk to Monastiraki Square in about 10 minutes.
You will find several restaurants and bars in this area. The Hop On / Hop Off buses also leave from this square, which is especially handy if you have limited time to spend in the city.
What to eat and drink
As I am a vegetarian, I did have my doubts about the heavily meat-based Greek cuisine. But when I came here, I found that there were a lot more vegetarian options than I had anticipated.
Just like in many other cities around the world, Athens has picked up on the vegan trend and there are more and more places that do meat-free alternatives of Greek classics.
For example the "Vegetarian Gyros", which I had at Amanita Grill (43–45 Themistikleous Str). The fries with home-made vegan mayonnaise and ketchup were both delicious and a bargain! The whole meal only cost me 5 Euros.
Vegan Beat (Pandrossou 7–15, located at the upper level inside a market hall close to Monastiraki Square) is a cute little place that serves all-vegan burgers, salads and desserts.
Of course, you will also find many places that sell the typical Greek Iced Coffee called Frappé. You might want to pick one up in the morning for your busy sightseeing day ahead.
How to get around in Athens
The easiest way to get around in Athens is the metro. A ticket is comparably cheap and easy to get at vending machines, which you will find at every station. A single ticket to use on all public transport costs 1.40 Euros and is valid for 90 minutes.
In addition, I used my ticket for the Hop On / Hop Off bus to conveniently get to all places of interest.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
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