If you are already dreaming about sunny days on top of the Acropolis, sparkling blue waters and delicious greek traditional flavours this is an article for you! We know you are excited and can’t wait for your vacation in the Greek capital and we know you will have an unforgettable time in this vibrant and diverse city that combines the ancient past with the modern metropolitan vibe. There’s just something so unique about Athens; there is an abundance of world famous sites and museums and so many more things to see, experience and taste that getting ready for your vacation can be daunting and frustrating when looking for what to do. Fortunately, we have prepared something for those of you who are not sure of what to do in Athens. In this blog, we will give you the top Athens travel tips with useful things to know before travelling in Athens so that your vacation will be just as you dreamt it: perfect!
Written by Savina Skourmalla on 07 – 06 – 2023
Top Athens Travel Tips – What to put in your suitcase
Regardless of if you are only visiting Athens or if you plan on hopping the Greek islands, one thing is for sure: it’s going to be hot! Make sure to pack lots of sunscreen which you will be needing throughout the day,yes,even after the sun falls. The sun in Athens is intense and especially if you are going to be exploring the city and its attraction you must be prepared, regardless of how light or dark your skin is. Along with the sunscreen make sure to have your sunglasses and a cap with you.
When you pack your clothes you need to remember one thing: pack lightly. Prefer light and comfortable dresses, shorts, tank tops and t-shirts and forget about fancy heels. You will not be needing them in hilly Athens – they can actually be dangerous in some cases-. Prepare comfortable walking shoes, converse or sandals that will keep your feet light during the day. This way, not only will your suitcase weigh less but you will also have space for your shopping!
If you plan on visiting the Greek Orthodox churches you need to remember to respect the ‘dress code’ , preferably wear a long skirt or trousers and avoid showing as much skin as possible. This way you will not only show your respect for Greek orthodox religion but you will also avoid all side looks from other church goers.
Another very important thing to remember when packing is to find a suitable adapter for your phone or other devices. In Greece the power plug sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Therefore, make sure to equip yourself with an adapter suitable for this type. There are some stores that sell adapters here but bringing one from home will save you time and probably money.
Top Athens Travel Tips – Where to stay
If you are planning on a short visit to Athens, meaning 2-5 days then it’s best to choose your hotel or airbnb wisely. Most people would definitely prefer something centrally located to make it easy to move around and see as much as they can in the short amount of time available. In another blog we have presented the best hotels in Athens which are not only located in the heart of Athens but are also run by locals who love the city and will give you the absolute best local experience and Greek ‘filoxenia’.
Athens is a vast city with many residence choices but one needs to be extra careful when choosing where to stay. Do some research beforehand and check what each hotel/airbnb offers according to your budget. A balcony with a view at the beautiful Acropolis hill can seem ideal yet in most cases the price can skyrocket. Our suggestion is to choose areas that are within walking distance to the Acropolis, like Koukaki, Monastiraki, Plaka, Thisio and are usually the top areas in every other article about the best Athens travel tips. If you don’t mind spending some time in the public transport you can search into more alternative areas like Exarcheia or even Kallithea which is close to the centre and the port of Piraeus.
Choosing the accommodation is the second most important thing to do (after booking the plane tickets of course) before travelling to Athens and it can certainly be a frustrating task. However Athens is pretty easy to explore and navigate since the metro and bus routes connect most of the central areas with each other. Depending on the district you choose and the budget you are going for, Athens has something for everyone.
Top Athens Travel Tips – Learn How Greeks do it!
We Greeks are a very peculiar species. We are loud, we are proud, we nudge about money but we spend it either way and we are very, very welcoming. For Greeks, having someone travel from across the world to see our beautiful country is an honour so we will always go above and beyond to make anyone feel welcome and homely. You will always find help if you are lost, even if the answer is in broken and weird english, everyone, regardless of their comfort in language will be willing to help you.
Most Athenians of course have no problem communicating in English since Athens has been a popular tourist destination for years and most of the menus and signs are of course available in English too. You can even hear the metro instructions in German and French too nowadays! However, everyone will smile and appreciate it if you try to speak a few words in Greek. We know, we know. It’s all Greek to you and we understand. But learning a few common phrases like ‘efxaristo’ (thank you), ‘parakalo’ (you’re welcome) and other greetings like ‘kalimera’ (good morning) or ‘kalispera’ (good afternoon) is not an impossible task. Your effort no matter how great or poor will definitely be appreciated by Greeks! Pro tip: do not use the Greek curses they teach you everywhere, that might cause a problem!
Athenians and Greeks all over the country have some habits and ‘rituals’ that might seem weird for other people. If you have already travelled to Greece you will have noticed the infamous ‘please do not throw paper in the toilet’ in private and public bathrooms. That might seem weird and even unsanitary to some but it’s a very vital request since Greek drainage systems use thin pipes that can easily get clogged with toilet paper. That’s why you will always see a cute little trash bin next to the toilet where you can throw your paper. Flushing is still mandatory!
Once here, you will notice that many people greet each other by kissing each other’s cheeks. This is not strange to other Europeans as it’s a common greeting in their countries too. You will even see politicians and celebrities greet each other like this.
One of the less known Athens travel trips is that If someone Greek invites you over for food, you better not decline unless there’s a very important reason, or at least try to reschedule. Declining an invitation to someone’s house for lunch or dinner is considered impolite. What’s worse is of course going to the table and not eating anything or even saying the food is bad. Even if you don’t like something, or anything, pretend you do and try complimenting the cook in any case!
Greeks have a heavy coffee drinking culture and morning coffee is almost a ritual. The traditional Greek coffee might seem appealing but if you are the type of person who orders a vanilla latte with decaf espresso and soy milk that might not be your cup! If you are a coffee lover and not afraid to try different things you should definitely give this rich in flavor drink a try. Even though modern Greeks are opting for iced types of coffee (freddo espresso or freddo cappuccino) the traditional aromatic coffee brew remains a vital part of Greek cultural heritage.
Last but not least in our list of the top Athens travel tips are…tips of course! In some areas in the world it’s mandatory to tip, while in others it’s considered an insult. In Greece it doesn’t really matter. Even if you tip or not no one will think bad of you. However, tipping someone even the least amount of money will be truly appreciated. Waiters and waitresses usually work long hours in order to make ends meet and therefore tipping is always appreciated. The tip could be considered regarding how good and helpful the service was. There is no need to tip someone working in an international coffee or fast food branch or anyone who is rude. One or two euros are considered a good tip in Greece. Tipping in cash is preferred so make sure to have some cash in you in general because even though most shops and places accept cards you might come across a minority that doesn’t. There are many ATMs around Athens and most of them are close to public transport locations so you will have access to your account easily at all times.
We hope that these travel tips will make your trip to Athens easier. As local Greeks who know about tourism we get it. We understand your concerns and questions and we guarantee that if you have these in mind your overall experience will be better. Greeks want everyone to feel welcome in their country and Athenians are passionate about this beautiful city. In order to see all that Athens has to offer in a short amount of time don’t hesitate to join our city bike tour in the heart of the Greek capital. Led by a local leader, you will have the chance to ride through all of Athens’ main highlights and some hip spots in under 3 hours and get the best introduction to the majestic city of Athens!
Planning your perfect vacation can always be frustrating but once you have done your research and figured all the basics out, everything becomes easier. Planning for a trip can be just as fun as actually travelling and this is why we equipped you with the most useful Athens travel tips in order to enjoy your sunny vacation freely. If you are wondering of ways to see the most of the city in the shortest possible time, as well as learn more about the local side of the city, you are welcome to join our fun e-bike tour and explore Athens on a bike. While avoiding heat or strenuous exercise, riding around the city on an electric bike will definitely add up to your experience and give you the best overview of the city. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Athens!