How to spend one day in Athens when you have a layover
When me and my hubby,
The list of things to do in Athens can get quite big, but as we had only a couple of hours to spend in the Greek capital, we decided to narrow it down. And instead of spending hours in touristy places, we headed towards the city. However, if you have more time to spend in Athens, and generally in the country, here are some incredible Greek landmarks for you to check out.
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How to get to Athens
The capital of Greece is well connected with both European and Asian countries. Like any other capital of any country, many companies operate daily to and from Athens. Therefore, getting there is not a problem at all. Wizzair and Ryanair operate from various European cities, so make sure to look for their promotions to get the best bargain on the price.
We flew to Athens from Istanbul Ataturk Airport. From there, we bought a bus ticket costing 6 Euros to get to the center. However, a metro goes directly from Athens airport to the center and costs 10 Euro.
5 things to know before visiting Athens
- If you are coming from a country with its own currency, make sure you buy Euros in your home country. My salary is USD, so I thought I would change them in Athens, but oh, boy! I was so wrong. All of the currency exchange offices have a very high commission!
- You can leave your luggage at the airport storage facility. They calculate the price per hour, and for up to 12 hours we paid €8
- Bus from the airport to the city center costs €6
- You can experience the city with a local guide for FREE at This is my Athens, but unfortunately, none of the volunteers were available on the date we arrived.
- You can buy an Athens city pass for €30 to reduce museums, Acropolis, and public transport costs.
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Top 9 things to do in Athens in a short time
Most of the Athens sightseeing is within walking distance. Therefore we didn’t use any public transportation other than the but from and to the airport. Moreover, wandering through the neighborhoods of Athens is a wonderful way to explore the city.
Wander through Plaka neighborhood
Plaka is the oldest area of the city, where most of the streets are for pedestrians only. The area is full of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, and jewelry stores. Therefore, it’s one of the most touristy places in the city center.
Considered one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city, located under the Acropolis, Plaka stretches towards the Syntagma square. You might even get lost there, but if you stay around its two main streets – Kydathineon and Adrianou – you’ll be fine.
One of the things to do in Athens in a short time is to visit the Monastiraki neighborhood to glimpse at its flea market. And if your visit falls on Sunday, there are even more stalls and vendors selling all the vintage items. Even if you are not into vintage stuff, it’s still a fun place to wander.
There’s a central tourist attraction Attica to bargain for souvenirs or buying something for yourself. Walk towards the square, take a look at the Church of the Panatassa, and sit down somewhere to relax and people-watch.
Get lost in Anafiotika
Hidden from the crowds, Anafiotika must be on your list of the things to do in Athens in a short time. The neighborhood is on the north side of the Acropolis featuring small streets and alleys. With its white wall houses and colorful doors, Anafiotika looks like a little island tucked away from the city’s bustle and hustle.
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Marvel through Pittaki Street Athens
If you, like me, love finding excellent street art, head to Pittaki Street. Here, Chinese paper lanterns, midcentury metal lamps, 40s floral and fringed lampshades, Moroccan mirrored shades, and stained glass lamps hang up in the air.
The allay painted in soft pastel colors with pictures of kitchen and living room furniture, Pittaki street is a modern touch of the ancient city. Want to make your Instagram photos even more interesting? Pose everywhere you want; the options of impressive backgrounds are endless.
Buy olives or groceries at the open-air market
While wandering the streets of Athens, we stumbled upon a small open-air market with fresh fruits, vegetables, and our all-time favorite olives. The country is famous for its olives, so it’s a shame not to take advantage and taste a bit.
What to eat in Athens
The first thing that comes up to mind when someone asks what to eat in Athens is – Greek Salad. I could not resist the temptation to taste one of my favorite salads in the place it originated from. The world-famous Greek Salad is a simple meal, but local feta cheese, olive oil, and kalamata olives make it so darn delicious.
I have read on one of the travel blogs to try falafels once I get to Athens. Falafellas has a wide variety of falafel sandwiches to choose from, but we took the smallest one for €2.50, and we had a hard time finishing it. The pita bread was full of falafels, veggies, and the right amount of sauce!
Another meal you need to eat in Athens is Loukoumades – a Greek dessert similar to crusty donuts. Small-shaped dough balls are deep-fried in oil and are sprinkled with either sugar, honey, cinnamon, chocolate, or other toppings. We tried it at Lukumades, and one portion of those sweets was more than enough for the two of us.
The so-called “colorful bar” is a great place to try Greek wines and local spirit Ouzo. Brettos is the oldest distillery in Greece, producing alcoholic drinks for at least 100 years. Here, you can try three different Ouzo and 160 different types of Greek wine by the glass.
They even have a wine tasting session from 10 am to 6 pm every day. So take advantage of it!
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Greece travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
- Book affordable flights on Skyscanner, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
- Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Greece, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
- Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda
- Pre-book a private transfer from Athens Airport to your hotel
- Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
- Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here