It's no surprise that Athens, Greece’s capital city, is one of the most popular destinations in the world. The city was named after Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, and the famous Parthenon was her temple. Today, Athens flights are packed with travellers flocking to Athena’s namesake to tour the mythical and mysterious city.
Athens was the location for the first modern Olympic Games in 1859. In 2004, millions of travellers booked flights to Athens to see the modern day city host the Summer Olympics. Thanks to the boost in tourism that accompanied the Games, the city was able to fund the construction of much-needed new roads and an upgrade to its transportation alternatives, making it easier for visitors to get around the city. Spend a day touring the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus before settling in with the locals. Enjoy authentic Greek food in sidewalk cafes and take in a little bit of Greece at its most historic.
Mid-March through May is usually pleasant and mild, even though the March wind has a cutting edge. The temperature rises in June and July, building to stifling hot — more than 37 degrees (Celsius) — and humid in August. The meltemi, a strong northerly wind, occasionally sweeps through the city providing relief from the heat. September cools down, with occasional light rain. October has mild weather with some high winds. November through February is the rainy season, the daytime temperatures drop to the 10s, and, coupled with the wind, can feel quite chilly.
When to fly to Athens
Despite the heat, summer brings hordes of visitors to Athens. By June most restaurants and clubs have shut down or changed venue to the shore. During August, Athens belongs to the tourists, and most of the Athenians leave the city on holiday. If you come in summer, visit sights and attractions in the early morning, nap through the midday heat, then visit more attractions in the evening.
Spring and late autumn have ideal weather for visiting Athens, and the restaurants and clubs are open. This is also a good time to find cheap flights.
Winter is an interesting time to visit Athens. There are few tourists, the weather is chilly with some rain, and you will save money on hotel bills.
Search and compare: cheap flights to Athens
Getting around Athens
Athens’ metro system is so easy to use that it has lessened the city’s traffic and pollution. The buses and trolleys are also cheap and efficient, but they are usually more crowded and can be confusing. Avoid travelling anywhere during rush hour, especially on public transport. It can be difficult to hail a taxi, so call ahead for one instead. You’ll find that taxis are cheap, although occasionally drivers will try to overcharge a clueless foreigner. One trick to catching a cab is calling out your destination to a cab already in use. The driver will stop and let you get in if he’s going the same way. You’ll still have to pay a full fare, though. It’s also easy to set out on foot. Most of the major sights are located in the same general area. And the ones that aren’t are easy to get to by public transport. There's no need to rent a car. Driving through the city is difficult to manage and parking spots are rare and expensive.
Athens insider information
- A visit to the Acropolis and the Parthenon is almost a prerequisite of a visit to Athens. The most spectacular remnant of Ancient Greek architecture, the Acropolis is 150m above sea level, rising above the flat city. As well as the Parthenon, it contains many other temples, columns and gateways. The site has been undergoing renovation for many years, but a walk around the Doric pillars and sculptures still give an insight to the awe-inspiring might of the Ancient Greek Empire.
- As befits such an ancient city, there are many museums and sites to view artefacts and antiquities. Don’t miss out on the living city, however. Especially since the renovation that took place for the Olympics, the city is a vibrant urban centre. Walk the streets, take a coffee break in one of the many pavement cafés, visit the bars and soak up the atmosphere of modern-day Athens.
- The National Gardens can be a welcome respite from the bustling city. Situated behind the Parliament, the 15.5 hectares contain shaded walkways, subtropical trees, ancient ruins, duck ponds and even a zoo.
- Prepare yourself before visiting the city for the sometimes all-consuming smog. The nefos, as Athenians call it, has been a problem since Athens became such a bustling, car-filled metropolis. Recent initiatives to reduce the levels of pollution in the city have had some effect, but you’ll probably still notice the smoggy atmosphere – particularly in the hot summer months.
- The tall Lycabettus Hill can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and is a great place to go for a stroll and get a view from the top. You can either take the (rather long) walk up the winding pathways, or cheat and get the funicular railway. There is a small church at the top, as well as a café – if you need a drink after the walk. Visiting at sunset is especially popular for the views.