Types of Girl about the Globe (GatG) – Digital Nomad GatG, History GatG, Island GatG
Athens is such a wonderful city. This Greek capital is steeped in history, has numerous colourful neighbourhoods and is the ideal base from which to explore the rest of the country. I spent a month in Athens in October 2020 and loved it. If you're planning a trip to Athens, below are my recommended places to see in Athens over a 3-day itinerary. The reality is that Athens is so fab you could easily spend a week here. I hope this inspires you to travel to this fantastic Greek capital.
Solo Travel to Athens
If you're wondering is Athens safe to travel alone? Although the neighbourhoods of Monastiraki, Omonia, Psyrri, and Mextaxourghio boast some of the city’s most colourful and alternative nightlife, don’t venture out late at night on your own, especially in poorly lit areas. The boundary between “safe” neighbourhoods and “unsafe” neighbourhoods can be difficult for non-locals to distinguish so just be careful at night and keep a close eye on your belongings.
Just because you travel here alone doesn’t mean that you'll stay being by yourself. Athens is becoming popular as a digital nomad hub and the best way to meet others in one of the co-working cafes. Coco Hub has an online community that you can join and meet others either already in Athens or transiting through.
For solo travel in Athens, just wandering the neighbourhoods of the city centre could amuse you for days, and the (air-conditioned) National Archeological Museum is especially good on hot afternoons. Athens also has fantastic nightlife, but grab a buddy from your hotel or hostel before venturing out alone into the early hours of the night.
During the summer months make the most of the open-air cinemas (the films are in English), and the beach bars and clubs along Posidonos Street.
Athens city is an intriguing mesh of ancient remnants and contemporary vibes. As for things to see in Athens, you’ll definitely want to visit the Acropolis, and Acropolis Museum. This famous archaeological site is one of the tourist attractions in Greece and is home to the world-famous Parthenon.
Day 1 in Athens – The Acropolis
Athens needs no introductions and is definitely worth discovering on your first few days in Greece, whichever time of year that you visit. The city centre is built around its most impressively imposing landmark, the Acropolis, while the majority of its ancient ruins can be found at a walking distance radius around its base.
The ancient citadel was built in 448 B.C and is located on the highest point of the city, as its name suggests in Greek. It houses the Parthenon, for which it is most known, as well as the Erechtheion monuments, famously featuring the Caryatids.
Make sure you check out the stunning Acropolis Museum but be prepared to spend a couple of hours as it is simply brimming with artefacts. Made almost entirely out of glass, it allows the natural light to move through the building as it pleases, creating the ideal setting for a spectacular display of ancient relics.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus is situated at the foot of the Acropolis rock and is an ancient theatre with fantastic acoustics, used until this day. If you are visiting in August, make sure you check the Epidaurus Festival that brings world-acclaimed performances to its historical stage.
Your ticket to the Acropolis allows you free access to the nearby Ancient Agora (or marketplace), which was the focal point of civic life in ancient Athens. The Ancient Agora of Athens lies on the other side of the Acropolis and today, the agora is a lovely and shady oasis in the middle of the city’s chaos and a great place to curl up with a book on a hot afternoon.
* Check prices and availability: Athens Acropolis & Archaeological Sites Ticket
The Agora was once the heart of ancient Athens. Inside is the Temple of Hephaistos, one of the best-preserved ancient temples from the Classical era, the Church of Holy Apostles, the Tholos (the headquarters of the council), and the Bouleuterion, a former meeting place. The Agora’s museum, inside the restored Stoa of Attalos, provides a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in ancient Athens.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is found across the road of Dionysiou Areopagitou, which is the main pedestrian street leading up the Acropolis from the main road.
Walk around the Acropolis from its metro station to go to Thiseio, down to Monastiraki, and then to the area of Anafiotika which is one of the most picturesque locations with great local food. Spend the early evening here dining on some Greek cuisine and watching the passers-by.
Then head to 360 Bar and treat yourself to a cocktail whilst admiring the Acropolis and the city below from the rooftop.
* Check prices and availability: Athens Acropolis & Archaeological Sites Ticket
Day 2 in Athens – Monastiraki
Explore Athen’s urban side. From derelict, neoclassical buildings, picturesque open-air bars and eateries and street art practically everywhere, Athens has a truly authentic vibe and to really understand what makes the city’s heartbeat, visit its colourful neighbourhoods.
Monastiraki square is a hub of activity, connecting the historic areas of Plaka and Thiseio that are found directly below the Acropolis. In Monastiraki Square, there are plenty of cafes and it’s a vibrant area to just sit and people watch. Walk past Agios Eleftherios, a small Byzantine church that contains the stone from Galilee where Jesus is said to have changed water into wine.
Overlooking the square is the Turkish Mosque that was originally built in the 18th century and has since been restored. You can also see the ruins and columns of Hadrian’s Library. The complex was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 A.D and housed teaching and reading rooms with a pond, gardens and porticoes where people could reflect on what they had learned.
Monastiraki is a nice area to just leisurely stroll around and do a spot of shopping at the main flea market then stop for lunch at one of the many traditional tavernas where you can admire the view of the Acropolis as you dine.
Opposite Monastiraki, is Psyrri, a gentrified district where you will find a huge variety of bars, taverns, sweet shops and meze places to sample the local cuisine. It’s also a district of street art with a gritty flair and bustling night scene that attracts hipsters and those seeking fashionable bars. Just walking around its streets you’ll be greeted with an open-air gallery of colourful street art. Make sure to see the Kerameikos ancient cemetery here where you can see the Sacred Gate and part of the Themistoclean Wall. This is the area that I stayed in which is just a 5/10 minute walk to Monastiraki.
At night, head up to the hill to join the others that come here to watch the sunset over the sea. You can walk up the hill from Psyrri. The walk down the hill is just gorgeous with the view of the city below. Not only is the view stunning but you can spot the roof terraces that have swimming pools as you walk down.
Day 3 in Athens – Discover the Athenian Riviera
With a huge coastline that covers about 70 km, venturing south of the centre promises plenty of time spent on a city beach as well as some sightseeing too. You can rent a car and drive down the coast. Or if you prefer to take public transport you can take the metro and the tram line that culminates in the seaside region of Voula.
From Athens centre, you go past the coastal, residential area of Faliro, Kalamaki and Alimos, Glyfada, Voula and then Vouliagmeni. There are beach facilities dotted along the coast but the one that I recommend to spend a day at the beach is in Varkiza, which can also be reached on the122 public bus which you can take after you get off from the Elliniko metro station from central Athens. The buses goes further than Varkiza, to Saronida, which is a popular summer resort town about 43 km from Athens.
At Varkiza, you pay €7 to enter the beach area, then you can choose a sun lounger to sunbathe on for the day. There is a lifeguard and a shop for snacks and drinks. Another great beach spot is Vouliagmeni, a thermal lake with sandy beaches and bays. There’s a restaurant and bar here and even thermal springs.
Day 4 in Athens – The Saronic Islands
If you are planning on staying longer here. Athens is the gateway to the islands with the closest being the Saronic Islands. I spent 2.5 weeks exploring these islands and recommend them for solo travel. If you’re unsure which one to visit, here’s a quick summary of them all.
Agistri – Just 45 minutes from Pireaus is the small island of Agistri. If you’re searching for somewhere small and beautiful, this island is a perfect choice and it’s as peaceful or as loud as you want it to be, depending on which side of the island you stay.
Just a 10-minute ferry ride from Agistri is the island of Aegina. Aegina is one of the most well-known Saronic islands. Its export is pistachios and there are pop up stalls and shops near the port selling pistachio oil, butter, sweets and anything and everything that can possibly be made from pistachios.
This was the first island that I stayed on and it honestly is one of my favourites. There’s something magical about it and the fact that there isn’t any transport just makes it even more special (just one dust cart that you hear in the mornings). The only other noise you’ll hear are the sounds of donkeys and the cats (or which there are many) that will befriend you as you sit al-fresco dining for one.
With its Venetian mansions, Spetses feels elegant with its boutiques and glamorous town. Spetses is 15 miles long and has a rich maritime past. Spetses was named ‘spice island’ by the Venetians after the aromatic smells. There are old footpaths across the island that take you on a path of discovery past small chapels and villages and across the green hilltops.
I loved this island and immediately felt at ease here. There’s just something about being on an island seeing the mountains of the mainland in the distance. And Poros is so close to mainland Greece that you can take a small ferry across to the Peloponnese for just one Euro. Poros is 33 square km and is actually made up of two islands both with a different landscapes.
Where To Stay in Athens
Athens has accommodation for all budgets. Choose a hostel or guesthouse if you’re backpacking in the city or on a tight budget. You can find studios and apartments as well as 3 to 5-star hotels with a pool or a view of the Acropolis. Because I stayed for a month, I choose an apartment through Airbnb. Below are my recommended places to stay in Athens. For all other accommodation, click on the link below.
If you’re backpacking in Greece and on a budget, City Circus Athens is a great hotel. Located in the Psirri area, near Monastiraki Metro, you’re in the heart of the city near bars and restaurants and walking distance to the Acropolis. The staff are really helpful and there are common areas to meet others to go sightseeing with. Choose from a bed in a 4-bed female-only or mixed dorm room or upgrade to a classic double or comfort double room.
- Prices from £21 / €25 per night for a bed in a 4-bed mixed dorm room
- To book, check prices or availability: City Circus Athens Hostel
As for enjoying the captivating ambience of the ancient rock at night, why not choose to stay at a hotel with an Acropolis view? A for Athens is located in the vibrant area of Monastiraki with a stunning view of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar and the terrace with panoramic views where you can enjoy a morning coffee and a superb breakfast (that’s included in the rate) whilst gazing at Athens’ most iconic landmark. Choose from a standard double or twin room, a deluxe double room or junior suite with an Acropolis view or a blue suite with an Acropolis view.
- Prices from £103 / €122 per night for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability: A for Athens
Getting Around Athens
The centre of Athens is walkable so you can see the Acropolis, the flea market and the main shopping area on foot. For all other areas, jump on the metro. A one-way ticket will cost €1.40 and is valid for 90 minutes. The metro goes to Piraeus port but you can also take bus numbers 040 and 500. You need to buy a ticket beforehand which you can purchase at metro stations. Find out more.
Express buses run from Athens Airport to Syntagma Square. Taxis are affordable but for ease, there is also Uber in Athens. It’s really to download and when you use the app, expect a yellow taxi to turn up.
For those seeking something a little bit different, there’s also an Athens happy train that goes around the centre to the city’s most famous monuments and sites. The colourful red train starts from Constitution Square and runs from 09:00 am to 09:00 pm. Tickets are €5 which you pay on the train and you can hop on and off as much as you like.
Have you been to Athens? Do you have any recommendations?
Subscribe to Girl about the Globe for monthly solo travel inspiration