Athens should be on your travel list and if it isn’t (like it wasn’t on mine) then I hope this post changes your mind. It is a foodie heaven, a hub for fascinating ancient history and a safe and cheap city break. Embarrassingly 30 years on this planet and 50 countries visited I cannot believe that Greece hadn’t been pinned on my map yet. My best friend, Lisa, planned an Athens trip with a detailed itinerary and extremely low priced airfares and accommodation which quickly became an offer I couldn’t refuse. Read on for my recommendations and a loose itinerary of what you should eat, see drink and do in this wonderful place.
To watch my Athens vlog click here.
Athens is such a foodie city. We were in heaven ticking off our list of Greek “must eats”. Every meal was outstanding and it was well worth the effort of taking the time to research beforehand to make sure tourist trap restaurants were avoided. For real local food visit Avli psiri restaurant. A light and bright white and blue restaurant hidden behind the facade of a beige wall with no sign. This restaurant was one of our best meals in Athens. The fava split pea dip was pure heaven. It was also where we had the best tzatziki. Definitely worth a visit as it’s reasonably priced, mainly filled with locals and the food is wonderful.
Another local restaurant is Taverna Klimataria, the restaurant is busy and making a booking is essential. Their famous dish is the lamb with braised potatoes, all slow cooked together and served straight from the vat to the table. The fava dip here is delicious as is the Moussaka. The tzatziki is creamy and salty packed with capers and dill. The food is very local and extremely tasty. If you dine later on in the evening you’ll be treated to live music and Greek dancing.
For other locals restaurants visiting the neighbourhood of Koukaki is essential. We stayed in this area and dined out in incredible non touristy restaurants. Very reasonably priced with extremely good seafood is Lolos (the octopus and squid are a MUST!) The fried cheese (saganaki) is also phenomenal as is the aubergine dip.
For the best gyro in Athens a visit to hole in the wall restaurant O kostas is essential. This cheap and cheerful place is well worth the wait for a pork or beef gyro. The flat bread is hot and fresh which really makes the meal. It’s hard to get gyro wrong with such simple ingredients, yet this really is on another level and it’ll only set you back 3€.
Go for lunch in Plaka at Yiasemi. The quaint steps up to the Acroplois in Plaka are filled with tiny cafes with tiny tables spilling out onto the steps. Dine outside and enjoy the world going by. Yiasemi gets my vote out of the large choice of restaurants in this area, everything is homemade, the greek salad is fresh and the lemon and mint juice is incredibly zingy.
Athens has plenty of rooftop bars with uninterrupted views of the Acropolis. Impossible to try them all but ones we visited and loved were Couleur Locale and MS Rooftop. Both have stunning uninterrupted views of the Acropolis and are incredible sunset spots.
Two other bars we loved were Noel and The Clumsies. What they lacked in sunset views they made up for in eclectic themes and creative cocktail lists. Noel is a Christmas themed bar with the tagline – it’s Christmas all year round. It’s a fun and upbeat bar yet remains as elegant as their drinks list. A number of Christmas inspired cocktails fill up their menu, think cardamon, anise and cinnamon spicing up the drinks. The Clumsies has been voted one of the top 50 bars in the world. It’s a funky upbeat bar home to a huge array of spirits from around the world and of course, an incredible cocktail list. Try the Gin, vermouth and rosehip cocktail – it is wonderful.
The house wine in restaurants is usually the only option and they are always pretty good. Greek beer was our favourite at mealtimes, in particular the Alpha beer.
The Coffee we drank in Athens was good. The best central coffee house is Kaya. Their oat milk flat white is creamy and strong. Another favourite coffee spot was Papadalup. INCREDIBLE coffee is an understatement and we visited every morning before starting off on a day of exploring. Smooth and strong coffee served many ways. Favourites amongst the table were the regular double shot Americano and the ice cold cappuccino (sounds weird but is creamy and delicious)
Unsurprisingly the first tourist attraction on people’s list will be the Acropolis. Hands down worth it and also extremely busy. Get there early (8am) and also purchase a week long €30 unlimited tourist attraction ticket. The entrance to the Acropolis is €20 so for a further €10 you can enjoy the sights of Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Zeus as well. These are walking distance from the main site but absolutely worth it. If you’d prefer to not pay for any tourist attractions, the free option is to wander up the hill of the Acropolis and enjoy views of the magnificent temple from the Aeropagus Hill.Sunset is wonderful here, yet you may be enjoying that view with half of Athens so get there early because it gets very packed.
The Acropolis Museum is also worth a visit. Stunning recovered artefacts are all preserved in this modern museum. The uncovered ruins below the museum are worth visiting and the view from the cafe is pretty spectacular.
Another tip would be to purchase the unlimited ticket from a quieter site (Temple of Zeus) as once you have queued up initially to buy it becomes a queue jump at all other sites. As mentioned above the Acropolis gets VERY busy so this is a wonderful way to not have to wait in line as well.
Other tourist attractions in Athens include the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building and the Monastiraki flea market. We did both, however I wouldn’t rush back to either. If you are passing by then it’s fun to stick around to watch the hourly guard changeover that includes a bizarre march that can almost be described as performance art.
Athens is a large city, however within the main centre everything feels incredibly close to each other. We stayed in the Koukaki neighbourhood, which we absolutely adored. You can take a look at the extremely well priced Air B&B we stayed at here.
It was €125 for four nights for two people, it was a small but clean and modern studio and had a quaint patio area to sit and enjoy morning coffee. If you want to stay somewhere a little away from all the hustle and bustle this area is perfect. It has local restaurants and bakeries in the area and getting into a morning routine grabbing coffee from Papadalup followed by a spanakopita from the bakery was the most wonderful start to our day. The restaurants are very reasonably priced and you’ll find yourselves being some of the only tourists in sight if you dine at Lolos. We actually went back a second night because we enjoyed the food and atmosphere so much.
If you want to stay somewhere more central to the Athens’ chic rooftop bars and better views of the breathtaking Acropolis then this is absolutely the Air B&B for you. The uninterrupted sunset views of the Acropolis and a stones throw from Noel bar and The Clumsies you can start your evening with rooftop drinks in the comfort of your own fabulous terrace followed by drinks at one of the worlds’ top 50 bars. Slightly more expensive, yet a ridiculously reasonable rate for the location, spec and views.
If you have more time visit the beach. The Athens Riviera is a gorgeous city coastline packed with beach bars, clubs and restaurants. We visited Akti Tou Iliou beach which was a 6€ taxi ride away. The beach was quiet, clean and free. After two days of sightseeing spending time relaxing on the beach is a welcomed break.
Enjoyed this post? Pin me for later 🙂