view over athens from the acropolis

My Complete Athens Itinerary For Your First Time Visit

After I moved out of London, I decided to take a little break. A vacation in Athens just sounded like a good idea to process the end of a chapter in my life. Here is my Athens itinerary and what I got up to during my four day stay.

athens city impressions
First impressions of Athens

The Best Time For Visiting Athens

I have to warn you. This is not going to be an affordable city break as Athens is pricey for the majority of the year. Flights with Easyjet from Gatwick between April to early October touch pretty much the £300 mark return.

OUCH, I KNOW!

But, let‘s keep positive. It means the city has a burst of sunshine and an incredible weather guarantee. I went in mid-August and the average temperature per day was approximately 35 degrees. Saying that my active time was during the night as it was too scorching during the day. The only way to survive is a pool at the hotel.

Unfortunately, not many hotels do pools (not to worry I come to that later!). However, if you‘re going in August, the city annually celebrates the pinnacle of summer during the full moon circle. It‘s a very special night with lots of celebrations. There are free concerts and museums are open to visitors. People will be out and about all night long transforming Athens into a buzzing place.

Where To Stay In Athens?

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I booked an incredible hotel and stayed at COCO-MAT Athens BC. It had my name written all over it mainly because the place had everything I could have asked for and more:

– Rooftop Bar & generous (instagrammable) Pool Terrace
– Impeccable 360-degree views over the city including the Acropolis
– Stargazing game was very strong
– Targeted at us childless Millennials
– Lots of interesting, young and dynamic people
– Uber stylish, spacious rooms with queen-size beds, super comfy, quiet AND a silent air con
– Location, literally right in the centre and 5 mins away from all the main attractions and actions
– Extremely friendly and personal staff
– Relaxed atmosphere
– Bike rental; ever since my solo trip to Vienna I prefer hotels with their own bikes
– Bathroom Slippers
– The rooftop bar offers relaxed al fresco dining at night with some sexy beach house tunes (not Vanilla Radio, but equally as good)

coco mat bc athens hotel views pool and acropolis
Coco Mat BC Athens rooftop with pool and view over the acropolis
coco mat athens bc view rooftop bar
The Coco Mat BC Athens rooftop bar – VERY ME

Part of the trip being so enjoyable was all down to COCO-MAT BC. I felt in really good hands during my stay. Knowing this place exists is reason enough for me to return to Athens in a heartbeat.

Please note: there are TWO Coco-Mat hotels in close proximity. Even though both are pretty cool, the Coco-Mat BC hotel is the one with the pool on the rooftop.

What To See & Do In Athens City?

During the day you’ll be excused to have a dip in the pool. Come 4pm though, it is time to explore. Unlike Rome, I found Athens had not that much history left and most of the archaeological sites were a bit repetitive. During my 4-day stay I managed to see the following sights:

1. Acropolis Museum. This one was on my hotel‘s doorsteps and I managed to visit it for free during the Full Moon event. The museum boasts the history of the Acropolis and numerous archaeological finds. From old vases to sculptures and frescos the museum is filled with interesting pieces. The museum is well designed with open planned exhibition space but I felt less engaged and spent overall a good 90 mins.

Admission to the Acropolis Museum usually comes 10EUR per person, but is free during the full moon event in August!

museum of acropolis in athens
The Museum of Acropolis in Athens

2. Acropolis and Surrounding Slopes. This is the highlight of Athens, right? Ascending the Acropolis Hill is very steep and most of the stones are very slippery and polished. I would never attempt ascending it during the daytime as it is way too hot to cope with the level of steepness. The best time I would say is during the early evening at around 5pm. This gives you approximately 3h before closing time to ascend the hill. You can check out the ruins and enjoy the view over the city. Apart from that, there‘s not much to do up there. Once you descend you can also take pictures of the Dionysus Amphitheater on the South Slope and explore more archaeological treasures such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Tickets for the Acropolis start at approximately 20EUR. Factor in 2-3h of your time depending on how busy it is and your own pace for the steep climb.

Odeon of herodes atticus south slope acropolis athens
view from the acropolis over athens
amphitheatre dionysus south slope acropolis athens

3. Less history but more fun is the Museum of Illusions. Similar to the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh, the museum plays with optical illusions. There are some great picture opportunities here for your Instagram. It‘s a playful way to engage with different perspectives, experiment with colours and lights and mess around with mirrors.

Tickets cost 9EUR for approximately 1h of good illusional fun.

museum of illusions athens
The Museum of Illusions in Athens is good fun!

4. Archaeological sites on the North Slope. Similar to the Alhambra in Granada, the Acropolis thrones majestically over the city and is a touristy hotspot. Nearly all of the touristic happenings are centred around the Acropolis. It’s a bit like the Kaaba in Mecca as you‘ll find yourself circulating the Acropolis all day long. There‘s a mix of restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. In between are more archaeological sites to explore such as The Ancient Agora of Athens, Temple of Hephaestus or Hadrian‘s Library.

5. Around the Acropolis is the Centre of Tourism with restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops and tonnes of souvenir and jewellery retailers. In that respect, Greece hasn‘t changed in over 20 years. Those shops still sell sponges, fridge magnets, spices and everything is cliché coloured in blue and white. Shop owners are a bit intense as they will watch every move. I often found browsing in peace missing, as suspicions & fear you may steal something are huge. In restaurants, however, Greeks are super nice and friendly – a whole different level in comparison to Rome.

beautiful streets in athens
traditional lamb gyros served in athens
Traditional lamb gyros served in Athens
kosmikon restaurant in athens
A typical restaurant in Athens

6. Actually, I met lots of friendly locals and Greeks. My taxi driver on arrival was a quirky old lady who didn’t stop talking about Athens. She told me about the upcoming Full Moon event and where to go and where to avoid. The hotel staff were super lovely.  A few days later I met a lady who took care of the many stray dogs in the pedestrian and we fed them together. Lastly, there’s my taxi driver on the final day who philosophised with me over the meaning of life. He said we all have an internal compass that will guide us to the right places. LOVED IT!

7. Monastiraki in the North of the Acropolis is quite the place with a lively square and some quirky shops and establishments around.

8. Getting lost on a Bike Tour. I ended up not finding the Museum of Illusions. Instead, I stumbled across a few hidden side streets in Monastiraki which were super pretty. The street Agias Theklas behind the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is seamed with umbrellas and quirky cake and dessert shops.

bike tour athens itinerary
Bike tour should not be missed in your Athens itinerary!
street with umbrellas in athens
Cute umbrella street in Athens
sightseeing tour on a bike in athens
Sightseeing per bike in Athens

9. Greeks love and know their desserts. There were lots of incredible sweet shops lined up to make sure you’ll get your sugar shock. There’s one called Kayak early on at the pedestrian zone. Waffles, Pancakes, Bubble Waffles, Chimney Cake and tonnes of Ice Cream. There’s more by the Hard Rock Café called Hans & Gretel. A huge candy store that serves bubble waffles, chimney cakes and ice cream. All ranked on the sickly over sugar-coated level. Right next to it is Gelateria Da Vinci and a five-minute walk by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a cake shop, Little Kook. It’s a paradise!

bubble waffle candy store athens
Here comes the sugar!

10. I would have never thought that Stargazing in the City would be possible. The rooftop terrace of my hotel offered stellar views every night. There was no light pollution and a clear summer night sky was visible all night long. Especially during the Full Moon night on Thursday, the views were magnificent.

full moon summer event in athens greece
The full moon event in Greece in August
prime spot coco mat athens bc hotel rooftop bar
I’ve secured the prime spot for stargazing and stellar night views

11. I found a random sticker advertising a local taxi company glued to the gates of The Temple of Olympian Zeus. It turned out to be the best ride I’ve ever had. Happy Transfer* is cheaper than the local taxi services and they do all of their marketing through word of mouth. My driver was super friendly and personal. We’ve been talking about the deep meaning of life, and how we should always listen to our inner compass as it will guide us to the right places. It was just one of those nice moments that confirmed that there’s more to life and something bigger and better waiting for us out there.

*Unfortunately Happy Transfer are no longer in business as of December 2023.

Please always check twice with taxi companies, inform your friends/family where you are and travel safely when out and about solo!

happy transfer sticker taxi airport transfer greece athens
Happy Transfer, a quick and affordable airport transfer
acropolis north slope archaeological site and ruins
ancient greek church north slope acropolis athens

FAQs About Your Athens Itinerary For A First Time Visit

I understand this is quite a lengthy post and you may have some questions for your Athens itinerary planning that need a quick answer. You can always come back to any section of my travel post and read in more detail what you’d need for your trip.

How Many Days in Athens For a First-Time Visit?

The historic centre in Athens is quite small and you can easily see all the sites within three days. If you also plan day trips to Santorini or Mykonos, I would advise you to factor in another day or two.

Is Athens Worth Visiting?

Athens was a nice city break but I wouldn’t rush back if I’m honest. The actual historic centre is small and the city didn’t offer me enough to keep me entertained and continuously engaged. The Moon celebrations in the summer were a nice surprise and touch. It was a great atmosphere in the city and I’m grateful to have experienced it. Outside of the touristy areas, Athens seems quite rough and drug dealing is a huge problem. It is also not the cleanest place. So to answer the question, yes it is worth visiting, but on a priority list for first-time visits or re-visits, I would prefer other cities.

Is Athens Solo Travel friendly?

Yes, Athens has been very friendly to me as a solo female traveller. I had no incidents or bad experiences. Unlike Italians, Greek men don’t harass you as much and you’re welcomed as a guest in restaurants & cafes. The Greeks I’ve met have been extremely kind and open-minded which I really enjoyed.

——–

Quite the spiritual trip, right? At the end of the week, I felt ready to go home but with a mission. For the next couple of months, I’m planning to spend some of my housing deposit on travelling. It is important for me to explore and experience as much as life has to offer. I still keep my eyes open for the perfect job but I will need to go where my energies are reciprocated.

I’ve been also reading this super interesting book about Life Design and Prototyping Experiences and this is exactly what I’d like to try out in the coming months.

I’m going to hike the final 100km of the Camino de Compostela in Spain – an adventure which will start tomorrow.

Wish me luck and Thanks so much for reading. If you enjoyed the post you can always support my blog & research through Buy Me a Coffee.

Till next time,
Carolin

You may also enjoy reading about my other European travel adventures:

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Shireen
    8 April 2022 at 11:50 am

    Wow your view from your hotel is as good as your dessert haha! Excited to hear about your hike, good luck!

  • Reply
    Pam
    8 April 2022 at 11:59 am

    What a great list! I’m hoping to get to Greece soon so definitely saving this for later! That ice cream looks incredible. It’s interesting that you wouldn’t go back to Athens, I’ve heard the same and don’t plan on spending too much time there. It looks like it’s definitely worth a visit though!

  • Reply
    Barry
    8 April 2022 at 8:02 pm

    Those pics of the Acropolis from your the roof top of your hotel are absolutely superb. The hotel was a great find, if only for that panorama. I think I would be there every night with drink just to gaze at it.
    I found the Metro very easy and cheap to use and it got me to and from the airport quicker and much cheaper than a taxi.
    I too just wandered the streets at the base of the Acropolis, There were so many little alleyways full of picturesque houses and cafes. As you say, you don’t really get lost because the streets just encircle the Mount so you can always look up and work out where you are. Nice to get your personal opinion of the city. I felt uneasy about criticising it in my review but we both saw a couple of concerning aspects so that has confirmed to me my initial feelings.
    Like you teh sights of teh ancient monuments impressed me, but also like you I found teh city a bit to rough (druggies) in many areas at night and the grafitti on buildings was a constant eyesore

  • Reply
    Bernie and Jess Watt
    8 April 2022 at 9:29 pm

    Athens is always a good idea. I remember it being really smoggy back in the late 80s. Was it cleaner and clearer? They defs love their desserts, but then again, so do we!

  • Reply
    RJ
    8 April 2022 at 9:33 pm

    Athens is a great city I’ve not been for decades but enjoyed the historic sites

  • Reply
    Becks
    9 April 2022 at 8:47 am

    Definitely taking up your hotel recommendation when I visit Athens, looks like a great spot! Athens has been on my radar to visit for ages but if I can find some cheapish flights, I’m going to visit! Not just because your food photos convinced me…

  • Reply
    Mitch
    9 April 2022 at 9:25 am

    Very much enjoyed this post. We’ve never visited Athens but would like to see it. This was a really useful itinerary with lots for ideas of places to visit. Your suggestion about what time of day to visit the Acropolis was also very helpful. Loved the view from your hotel!

  • Reply
    Emma
    9 April 2022 at 4:01 pm

    Greece has been high on my list for a long time. I have heard mixed things about Athens though, and it seems like you felt a lot of that. I really would need to visit to see the Acropolis though, it wouldn’t be Greece without seeing that. Good to know about going later in the day though. I probably would have fallen into the trap of going during the day and dying on my way up the hill from the heat

  • Reply
    JoJo Hall
    10 April 2022 at 8:31 pm

    Thank you so much for all this wonderful information! At some point, I’d love to visit Greece and visit Athens. I’ll keep this information and itinerary in mind when I do!

  • Reply
    Renee
    11 April 2022 at 9:45 am

    I think I would go to Athens just for the hotel. I too love to find places that are not known for being family-friendly. When on holidays I love to stay at places that offer views and that rooftop pool would be the perfect spot day or night to relax. It does seem like a city that could be good for a weekend, but no more days than that. But great city break for those close enough to it.

  • Reply
    Wanderingkellers
    13 April 2022 at 8:07 pm

    Have always wanted to go to Athens. It was on the itinerary for a Covid cancelled trip. Looks like you made the best of the time you had.

  • Reply
    kasia
    14 April 2022 at 5:03 am

    We had a great time in Athens! As we also went in August, I can totally agree that it was so hot. I’d like to go back and spend some more time there.

  • Reply
    Vic and Gus
    15 April 2022 at 6:08 pm

    Coco-Mat definitely screams my name and seems like the must stay at location! Athens seems like a fun city to explore one day!

  • Reply
    Peggy
    26 May 2022 at 2:44 am

    I love your perspective (as always!), I’ll be visiting for the first time in September. Just 2 days im then off to the islands. Great tips here! Definitely going to up my incline training!

  • Reply
    Kellye
    26 May 2022 at 3:23 am

    Very nice post! I’ve never been to Athens, and probably will never get there, so I will enjoy traveling with you through social media. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Peggy Zipperer
    9 June 2022 at 3:32 am

    Soooo helpful as I am going to Athens in September. Love hearing about the friendly locals. Your pictures are fabulous – I cannot wait to experience Athens. Also, definitely keeping note of happy transfer!

  • Reply
    Angela
    10 August 2022 at 1:24 pm

    I can’t believe that I traveled the world so much but never been in Greece. Your post is great and detailed enough to make me consider Athens on a quick visit… must confess that the ice cream picture had some influence on my decision 😂 thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Hannah
    13 August 2022 at 9:46 am

    Ahhh, that hotel looks lush. I’d probably never visit Greece in summer, but the Full Moon fest sounds like a good bonus for doing so.

    Finding a good taxi service is so important when you are travelling solo!

  • Reply
    Nick Rosen
    7 April 2023 at 1:57 am

    Very nice, Planning on visiting Athens next year. Any recommendations on foodie markets or street food hangouts?

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