Athens Travel Guide

If touring ancient sites all day drives you to drink, bypass the touts luring you into Plaka’s mediocre restaurants and slip into this narrow, 100-year-old hideaway, allegedly the second oldest bar in Europe.

Seeing an ancient Greek tragedy—or Swan Lake, The Magic Flute, or anything, really—performed at the A.D. 160 Herodeon (Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater), with the Acropolis looming behind, may be the highlight of your visit to Athens.

Athens’s New Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 with at least two missions: to display Acropolis artifacts in a modern setting and to regain the missing Parthenon Marbles, removed from the ancient building in the early 1800s by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum in England shortly after.

Rows of beach chairs and umbrellas line this hip, family-friendly, shallow-water beach east of Vouliagmeni. It’s privately owned, which means it has an entry fee ($8) but is also pristine and has a multitude of facilities, such as a beach bar, showers, waterslides, and water sports.

Perhaps the second most important venue for diligent tourists (after the Acropolis), the recently renovated mammoth museum has the amazing Greek collection you’d expect, from Neolithic clay figurines to the treasures unearthed at Mycenae to the crowd-pleasing prehistoric antelope fresco from Sant

The nouveaux riches of Athens love anything foreign—cars, TV shows, even coffee (some of Kolonaki’s snootier cafés refuse to serve café frappés, opting for the chic Italian import, cappuccino freddo).

One of the great pleasures of the Athenian summer is enjoying a movie (and a souvlaki and a beer) alfresco at one of the open-air cinemas. The swankest is the Aegli, in the leafy Zappeio Gardens near Syntagma Square, which often plays Hollywood blockbusters with Greek subtitles.

You can’t come to Athens and not visit the sacred rock. The world’s most famous acropolis (which means “edge of the city”) stands 230 feet high, with a 484,000-square-foot flat plateau; atop it is the Parthenon, designed by Pericles in the fifth century B.C.

One of the most recent naturopathic products to sweep the globe is mastiha, or mastic; the chewy resin, which comes from trees grown and harvested only on the Greek island of Chio, reportedly has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Athens’s second most famous rock, this limestone cliff is 908 feet above sea level; imagine the view.

The road from central Athens to the sea is lined with open-air clubs that rage all night long to the strains of Euro pop. This glitzy option, where most of the action takes place around a pool above the beach, looks like the backyard of a drug kingpin’s Miami mansion.

Athens is full of jewelry stores whose creations range from whimsical to wow. Lalaounis is one of the most serious (you get buzzed in at the door) and famous.

The shores south of Athens are known as the Athenian Riviera, with beaches spanning roughly 25 miles. One of the nicest of these belongs to the Astir Palace resort, on its private peninsula south of Athens.

Not all of the art in Athens is ancient; this stunningly renovated Neoclassical mansion holds the world’s third largest collection of graphic M. C. Escher prints and a permanent exhibit of the work of Op Art pioneer Victor Vasarely.

Arguably the prettiest shop in Plaka, the city’s tourist hotbed, this store and gallery forgoes kitschy souvenirs for ceramic plates from the island of Rhodes and intricately carved wooden frames and trays from Epiros.