HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN ATHENS: ATHENS TRAVEL GUIDE

AUGUST 2022, UPDATED 2024

This blogpost summarizes my experiences in Athens of my 2022 and 2024 travels. In 2022 I didn’t know what to expect from Athens, and I only knew that I wanted to visit the Acropolis. I didn’t have many expectations and was taken by surprise by the charms of Athens. In 2024 I revisited Athens at the end of my Paros trip and was happy to explore the city again for an additional day. Athens quickly conquered my heart and if you follow my guide I am confident it will capture yours too.

Where to stay

Athens is an enormous city and the metropolitan area has over 4 million inhabitants. It stretches all the way to the sea and you do not want to stay in the wrong area. The historical area of Athens can actually be explored by foot, as long as you stay in the right area. Monistiraki is the area where you will find Athens’ main square and Hadrian’s library, this is the beating heart of the city. You should want to stay near Monistiraki, yet not directly at the Monistiraki Square as it’s very chaotic and busy. In 2022 we stayed in Titania hotel, which was a nice 15 minute walk to Monistiraki, through a pedestrian area. We chose this hotel because of its central location and its rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis. A room costs € 85 per night, which includes a breakfast buffet. It is possible to stay in Athens much cheaper, especially when you rent an appartment, but as we were traveling with a baby we loved the opportunity to put him to bed and enjoy the restaurant ourselves. The hotel looked a bit dated, but it was clean and the restaurant was really good and lively! (2024 update: prices for this hotel have somehow doubled).

In 2024 I wanted to book the Titania hotel again, but due to an event the prices were extremely high… So I decided to stay in Plaka instead. We booked the Karma Athens hotel, which had the perfect location, just one street of the little alleyways of Plaka that are filled with charming restaurants. We paid € 130 a night, without breakfast. We didn’t love the room, but the location was great.

Day 1

It is very tempting to start your day at the Acropolis, but I would recommend to hold off and visit it later during the day. In the early morning a lot of tour and cruise groups visit the Acropolis. It is better to visit it in the afternoon, when the crowds have disappeared. What you should do instead is visit the neighborhood Plaka and the oldest borough Anafiotika. Plaka and Anafiotika are the areas which will give you that island feel and you will forget you are in a metropolitan city. In the morning this area is still very quiet and you can enjoy the bougainvilleas and beautiful doors and buildings without lots of people passing by. Why not have breakfast near the Acropolis museum with an Acropolis view? If you search for Spezie pasta-cafe you will find lots of affordable restaurants that offer breakfast and have a terrace with Acropolis view.

I would recommend to stay in Plaka for lunch and do some people watching. If you are still looking for a cute blue and white outfit to bring with you to the islands, Plaka is where you should go shopping! Ceramics and clothes are much more affordable here than on the islands. And while you are shopping you will probably run into Hadrian’s arch as well, it is located opposite the temple of Zeus (which did not seem worth visiting to me).

Hadrian’s arch with the Acropolis if you look through it

In the afternoon you should go visit the Acropolis. The Acropolis and the Parthenon are such amazing sites, you should dedicate sufficient time to them. I wrote a separate blogpost with recommendations for visiting the Acropolis, as it can be a bit chaotic to find out how to buy tickets.

In the evening I would recommend to have dinner at a rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis. The Acropolis lights up beautifully in the evening and it is best admired from a rooftop restaurant. Olive Garden at Titania hotel has a lovely rooftop and it is also possible to eat here if you do not stay the night.

Near Monastiraki square you will find lots of cocktail bars that offer the perfect view of the Acropolis. We visited 360 Cocktail bar, right after dinner and were happy that we didn’t have to queue very long. The drinks are quite expensive (though coffee was affordable), but it is worth it for the views.

Day 2

I would start this day by exploring Monastiraki and its markets. This area reminded me of Arabian cities, as all the markets flow into each other. This is the true hustle and bustle in Athens! Near Monastiraki square you will find Hadrian’s library, which you can actually see pretty clearly by just walking around it. I did not feel the need to buy an entrance ticket as it is so visible from the streets, however if you have a particular interest in it and want to know more, it is one of the best preserved sites of Athens… You can enter churches for free in Athens, you will find many in Monastiraki and it is worth it to go in and enjoy the colorful frescos.

If you pay attention you will see the Acropolis everywhere
Hadrian’s library

When it starts to get really hot, you can cool off under the palm trees of the National Garden. If you love turtoises you can find many of them at the little ponds that are scattered through the park. In May the jacaranda trees were in bloom and created a lovely purple carpet, which was a lovely sight. The National Garden is free to enter, but does close at 7PM.

Near the National Garden you can spot the National Library of Athens, which is such a lovely building!

To round off your visit to Athens in the classical way, the Ancient Agora is one of the most beautiful historic sites in Athens. This is the old marketplace of Athens and it is located in a beautiful location under the Acropolis. The Hephaisteion is a temple that is specifically well preserved and less photobombed than the Acropolis.

In the evening I would recommend to get back to Plaka, as the area really livens up in the evenings. You will find musicians playing the Sirtaki, while you are sipping ouzo under the olive trees. One specific recommendation that I have is Zorbas restaurant, it is located opposite the iconic bougainvillea of Plaka and they have affordable and tasty meals in a scenic location.

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