24-Hour Travel Guide to Athens
We recently returned from a trip to Europe where we spent time in Athens, Greece, celebrating our friends’ wedding. It was a quick trip, just three nights, and we had a very short amount of time to pack in as much of Athens as we possibly could. Based on our experience, and that of family members who were with us, I created a travel guide with tips and must-see places for the best 24 hours in Athens.
What to Wear
Athens is very warm, especially in the summertime, and the sun can be intense. Keep travel outfits lightweight and wear comfortable shoes that will support your feet as you run around the city. Stick to cotton and linen fabrics, don’t be afraid to wear sneakers and make sure your bag is secure.
By secure I mean it won’t easily slip off your shoulder, it is made of sturdy material, and either zips or snaps closed. While you don’t necessarily need a “cut-proof bag,” you’re still in a very large, busy city, so always keep an eye on your things. I would not recommend wearing a backpack unless the zippers lock and avoid fanny packs that snap around your waist. Personally, I wore a leather crossbody that zipped and folded over so I wasn’t easy for anyone to access, but still looked stylish.
For more information on safety while traveling in Athens I suggest the Smarter Traveler article “Is Athens Safe? Areas to Avoid and Other Warnings.”
In terms of shoes, there are several areas where the stone you will be walking on is very slick. My leather sandals were like wearing socks on hardwood floors: one wrong step and you’ll be swept off your feet! This is especially true in areas around the Acropolis, like the viewing spot below, and the Plaka neighborhood. Plan on wearing sneakers or another shoe with nice grip.
Sites to See
If you’re like us and don’t have much time in Athens, below is a suggested list of sites that you can see within 24 hours. There are plenty more to see, but this select group will give you a taste of the incredible history and culture this city has to offer. Below are our top “must see” sites in the order we suggest to really maximize your time.
The Changing of the Guards ceremony takes place outside of the Parliament building and Presidential Mansion. A special unit of the Hellenic Army, known as The Presidential Guard, stands perfectly still guarding the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Every hour, every day of the week there is a Changing of the Guards ceremony free for the public to view.
Take a stroll through the beautiful National Gardens as you make your way to the Temple of Zeus or the Acropolis Museum. Our first meal in Athens was at a restaurant inside, Aegli Zappiou, that has incredible food and a great view of the Parthenon.
Temple of Olympian Zeus & Hadrian’s Arch
- Recommend going before you visit the Acropolis.
- The museum itself is beautiful! The architecture is really interesting and it’s a great photo-opp.
- High upon a rocky hill sits the ancient citadel that includes famous buildings and ruins: the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysos, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. Explore by yourself or book a tour.
- Keep an eye out for concerts at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It’s an incredible ancient theater that sits at the bottom of the south-west side of the Acropolis.
- Photographer Tip: On your way out, if you walk the path that goes past the Odeon of Herodes Atticus there are homes on the opposite side of the road that featuring really interesting entry-ways, doors and other architectural details.
This is the oldest and, as you will hear from many, the most beautiful neighborhood in Athens. It features an intricate maze of narrow cobblestone streets with bustling restaurants, shops and Neoclassical architecture. Most of the area is closed for foot-traffic only, which makes it even more fun to explore.
- Hours: M-F 10am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
- Right near the Coco-Mat Hotel, where we recommend staying
- Exhibits focus on the ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus.
- Picasso and Antiquity: Until October 20 the museum is hosting a special exhibit of 68 rare Picasso drawings and ceramics inspired by ancient theater.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Coco-Mat Athens Jumelle Hotel and can’t wait to go back! It’s located in a safe, quiet area that was still in walking distance of all of the major sites. In fact, it’s across the street from the Museum of Cycladic Arts!
Everything at the hotel was exactly what we were looking for. It was clean, comfortable and chic! All of the staff members were friendly. The breakfast spread was delicious. I could sit on that patio and eat Greek yogurt + honey every morning and never get tired of it. Don’t even get me started on the Coco-Mat mattresses and pillows! They even had menus in the room advertising the various types of products they offer. We were so cozy it was hard to get out of bed. To be honest, it didn’t really help that we had jetlag and were recovering from being at our friends’ wedding from 6pm to 7am the next day, but that’s another story.
We cannot say enough great things about the Coco-Mat Athens Jumelle Hotel. I want to go back to Athens just to have an excuse to stay there! Now that we’ve stayed in a Coco-Mat hotel, you can bet we will be looking for locations for future travel destinations.
Where to Eat
We didn’t have a bad meal the entire time we were in Athens. While 24 hours isn’t nearly enough time to make even a little dent in the culinary experience the city has to offer, I can share a few of the places we dined and loved!
This casual restaurant is a great place to grab lunch before heading to The Acropolis. It is just a 10-minute walk away! We got the Pork Souvlaki, a popular Greek fast food with grilled meet, and the beef Yogurtlu, which is beef kebab on top of pita and topped with yogurt and tomato sauce. They were both delicious!
Wonderful patio and outdoor dining area for drinks or dinner with a view of The Acropolis. The mastic ice cream was delicious! It’s made with drops of resin from mastic trees, which is traditionally produced in Chios, Greece.
City ZEN All Day Bar Restaurant
This is a great rooftop bar with an interesting cocktail menu and a killer view! Pictures do not do it justice. For food, we ended up ordering a few pizzas, all of which were tasty, and the spinach pie. The food wasn’t the highlight of our time there, but the atmosphere was. Overall, it was a fabulous spot and I would definitely go back here for drinks!
On our way back to the hotel after dinner, we happened upon this beautiful spot that is a deli, marketplace, bar and café all in one. When you walk into the glass atrium you know you found something special! Since it was later in the evening, we grabbed some gelato, coffee and a few souvenirs like some nice Greek olive oil. I would like to come back to the Agora when we have more time to explore. The space features a vertical orchard, which we totally missed (distracted by sweets), and they offer cooking classes! Click here to read more about the space.
Coco-Mat Athens Jumelle Hotel Breakfast Buffet
I mentioned their breakfast spread was amazing earlier in the post, so let me just break this down into some of the tasty things they have to offer: the perfect cup of coffee, eggs made to order, fresh cheese & cured meats, traditional Greek yogurt and jams (hello, fig and apricot!), delicious honey (literally dripping off the comb), various pies and all the bread. The most important of the breads is a Greek bread ring with cheese. Think very large, skinny donut, but savory. It was so good! I was exhausted after the wedding (we didn’t back to the hotel until 7am the next morning) and all I could do was crawl into bed while Trent went to breakfast. Yet, I used my last ounce of energy for a single request “bring me one of those cheesy bread rings, please!!” ‘Nuff said.
Phew!! I know it seems like a lot, but if you plan it right and drink just the right amount of coffee, you can visit all these places within 24 hours in Athens. Just make sure to wear those comfortable shoes I mentioned!