How to Spend the Perfect Short Layover in Athens
If you have a layover or are going to be in Athens for a day before heading to a Greek island, then we’ve got you covered! Ideally you want at least a couple of days to really get a vibe of the city, but if you only have one day in this fascinating metropolis, here is what we suggest for the perfect layover in Athens.
7:00am - Rise and Shine!
Start your day with a bougatsa, a breakfast pastry that can be filled with cheese, custard, or minced meat. Also, enjoy some creamy Greek yogurt topped with seasonal fruit and nuts while sipping a strong traditional Greek coffee to really kick start your morning. Alternatively, try Spiti mas in Psyrri, which offers the most amazing Greek pies made of local fresh ingredients. Another spot that surely will not disappoint you is 7 Cactus in Koukaki near Acropoli metro station, which is known to serve delicious Greek breakfast with a contemporary touch.
8:00am - Marvel at the Acropolis slopes
This might seem brutally early to visit the major monument of Athens, but it is honestly the best time of day to visit. Athens is a major tourist destination with tons of sightseeing tour groups and buses, so the earlier the better in order to beat the crowds and afternoon heat during summer, late spring or early autumn.
Your visit on the Acropolis Hill should take around 1-2 hours, depending on your level of passion for archaeology, classical architecture and philosophy! The full-price ticket costs €20.00 (reduced €10.00) and is valid for the Acropolis Hill and its slopes.
10:00am - Visit the Acropolis museum
Time to escape the heat and head indoors in this stunning museum, considered one of the top 10 museums in the world by National Geographic. Drop by the Acropolis Museum Café for a snack or a refreshing drink and take your time in the museum. It is exceptionally well designed, with high glass ceilings, nice views and glass floors that look down to ancient ruins. In the museum, you’ll find what has remained in Greece from the amazing Parthenon sculptures to artifacts such as pottery, figurines and statues that were found in and around the Acropolis. Check out our list with the 5 best museums to visit in Athens here.
12:00pm - Lunch time in beautiful Plaka
Head to the nearby Plaka neighborhood under the Acropolis. It’s the oldest part of the town and has breathtaking views of the Acropolis. Plaka is by far Athens’ most picturesque neighborhood filled with interesting places to eat, drink and shop. You could grab a quick souvlaki and stroll down the cute streets of Plaka or it might be nice to sit down and relax while you have your lunch. Pick up some traditional Greek loukoumades, which are crisp and sugary balls of deep-fried dough, or grab some creamy gelato to satisfy your sweet tooth.
After or before lunch, do take time to explore the Plaka neighborhood and purchase some nice souvenirs, jewelry, and enjoy the afternoon. You can check out our article on Plaka for more detailed suggestions on what to do. Make a quick visit to Roman Agora in Plaka, constructed as a succession to the original Agora including many buildings of historical interest, like the Tower of the Winds, the Agoranomion, the Gate of Athena Archegetis and the Fethiye Djami (mosque).
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1:30pm - Shopping in Monastiraki and Koukaki
After feeling refreshed and nourished from lunch, then venture out to Monastiraki to do some shopping and browse the shops. Late July or August is especially a great time to shop as everything is on sale in Athens. There is also the nearby neighborhood of Koukaki, a hip area with a laid-back and cool vibe. Stroll down the charming area along Georgaki Olympia Street, which features an eclectic mix of cafes and restaurants. Koukaki is also home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, a place that pays homage to the art of goldsmithing sure to be a delight for jewelry connoisseurs.
3:00pm - Rooftop bar for a drink or coffee
Shopping can be very tiring so you’ll enjoy taking it easy with a drink or a freddo espresso at one of the many rooftop bars in central Athens. For a spectacular view of the Acropolis while sipping on a cold drink, visit ‘A for Athens’ boutique hotel’s top level rooftop bar located near Monastiraki Square. Along with their must-try cocktails, they feature a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu as well. For more suggestions, see our article on the top rooftop bars in Athens.
4:00pm - Head back to the hotel for some rest
Head back down the hill and if you wish, go back to your hotel to get a some rest and refresh yourself for the evening.
5:30pm - Athens riviera and beaches
Take a tram from Syntagma towards the Athens Riveira, which is the coastal area in the southern suburbs of Athens from Piraeus to Sounio. If you want to take a dip in the sea, there are many great beaches to cool off in the Athens Riviera. See our list of recommended beaches near Athens here.
A few of the main areas of the southern suburbs are Palaio Faliro, Glyfada, Voula, Vari and Vouliagmeni, suggestions for which can be found at our Athens Riviera article here.
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10:00pm - Night out in Gazi or Metaxourgeio
After you’ve had enough of the seaside, head back to your hotel and get ready for your night out. If you have an early flight to catch the next morning, you can just stick to having a quick drink at one of the bars and call it an early night. If not, check out of the many nightclubs in Gazi to dance the night away! Close to the Athens center, Metaxourgeio is an old and unique neighborhood where ceramics craftsmen and potters used to have their workshops. The area comes alive at night and is known for its underground theaters and great bars such as ‘Beauty Killed the Beast’, a stylish and ascetically impressive bar serving tasty cocktails accompanied by cool music.
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What would you do if you only had one day to visit Athens? Let us know in the comments below!
Words: Prachi Oza