Getting To And Around Athens
Getting into town from the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (which is outside the city) is easy, and there are several options.
Bus: There are buses directly from the airport to the main charter hub in Paleo Faliro (an Athens suburb) and to the Athens city center. Athens bus schedules/routes
X95 SYNTAGMA – ATHENS AIRPORT EXPRESS. This bus is a direct connection to Syntagma Square in Athens city center.
X96 PIRAEUS – ATHENS AIRPORT EXPRESS. This bus provides a direct connection to the Piraeus central passenger port terminals. If you’re headed directly to Marina Alimos in the Athens suburb of Alimos, which is where the majority of charters originate, take THIS bus from the airport. Get off at the stop called EDEM. The Alimos Marina is to the left as you exit the bus, on the ocean side of Poseidonos Avenue; walk downhill to reach the docks.
Tram: The tram does not go directly to the airport, but it does connect Syntagma Square in central Athens with Marina Alimos, the chartering hub. Take any tram bearing the destination name “Voula.”
The ride takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Get off at the stop called EDEM. The marina entrance is behind a Shell gasoline station; follow the road down to the docks.
Taxis: Cabs are always waiting at the taxi stand outside the airport arrivals terminal. The maximum number of passengers per cab (by law) is four.
Radio Taxis– which is what pre-booked taxis are called here – are more expensive than the on demand option. In downtown Athens, cab queues are evident in various locations. You can also hail one that’s free or ask your hotel to arrange one for you. Make sure the driver starts the meter at the beginning of the ride.
What to See and Do in Athens
Greece’s famous capital city is bustling, hot, and crowded during the summer tourist season, but you can’t visit Greece without seeing at least some of its highlights. Before or after a sailing charter, spending one or two days here is probably sufficient. You can also use the city as a base camp for excursions to other land attractions, such as Delphi, famed ancient site of the Oracle; the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, south of the city; or Meteora, the amazing geological wonder in northern Greece where monasteries sit atop pinnacles of rock that rise incongruously out of the flat plain. Most large hotels can arrange such trips.
There’s much to see and do in Athens, but here are the highlights for a brief visit.
The Acropolis – which simply means “top” or “hill” in Greek – and the Parthenon that graces it are of course the first “must-sees.” This is probably the most famous building in the world, and seeing it up close (or even from afar) for the first time is breathtaking. The newly opened Acropolis Museum nearby is as wondrous as the site itself. Allow at least half a day, preferably starting in the morning, to fully experience this wonder of the world.
A short walk downhill from the Acropolis is the old Athens neighborhood called Plaka, a perfect place to spend an afternoon after you’ve visited the Parthenon. Have lunch in any one of the plethora of good tavernas, or hunt for bargains (here, bartering is possible) in the vast array of shops selling everything you could possibly imagine, from souvenirs to fine art. Plaka is a taste of what Athens used to be like. It’s lively, busy, and just plain fun. Even if you don’t eat or shop, you’ll have fun people-watching while sipping a cool drink or a cup of excellent coffee in this historic district.
Not far from Plaka is Syntagma Square, the heart of Athens Center and home to the Parliament building. The changing of the guard here is worth seeing; however, at this writing, Syntagma has been the site of some large demonstrations, some of which have become violent. Demonstrations are almost always prescheduled and announced in advance, so if you want to see Syntagma, do so on a day when nothing disruptive is happening. (For updates on demonstrations, visit the US Embassy website.)
If you have time, the view of the city from Mount Lycabettus adjacent to the Acropolis is worth checking out: it’s the highest point in the city and there are stupendous views of the Acropolis and surrounding land and sea from up here. You can reach the top via a funicular railway, which climbs the hill from a railway station in the trendy Kolonaki district of Athens. At the top, you’ll find the 19th-century Chapel of St. George as well as a café and restaurant.
If you’re a museum person, the National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most precious relics of the ancient Greek world. This is not a museum for a quick walk-through – really seeing its riches requires at least half a day, maybe more.
There’s plenty more to see and do in this history-packed capital city, but at the very least, try to take in the highlights noted above.