Athens might not be as colorful and cosmopolitan as Lisbon, but it doesn’t lack strong character or a special vibe. It might look disorganized and crowded but in the end, it’s delightfully chaotic.
Spring or fall is the best time to visit the Greek capital because the weather is warm and ideal for taking long strolls. After all, the best way to get to know a city is by walking. Even if you can only arrange a long layover, you should still be able to enjoy the highlights. Here’s what you can do in 24 hours in Athens to experience the real pulse of the city…on the run.
In the morning
A nice way to start your day is by visiting the Acropolis hill and the Acropolis Museum.
An essential stop for every traveler to Athens, the Acropolis hill stands above the city as a reminder of its glorious past and as a promise for a better future. This old citadel contains, among other ancient buildings, the impressive temple of the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of the city from whom Athens got its name. Also, the new museum of Acropolis, which is considered to be one of the best museums worldwide, houses the artifacts found at the archaeological site of the Acropolis hill, so there is an organic connection between these two places.
In the afternoon
Anafiotika, right below the Acropolis hill, is like an island within the city and an ideal destination for local food tasting. This neighborhood is one of the oldest in Athens with small houses, yards full of flowers, and brightly painted windows and doors. It’s always amazing to walk through there, down the narrow paths and alleys with the smell of jasmine all around. Here you can taste traditional Greek dishes, like the famous mousakas (a plate with ground meat, potatoes, and eggplants in layers), gorge on sweets like baklava and galaktoboureko (a creamy custard pie in filo) and enjoy a strong Greek coffee.
In the evening
Enjoy the sunset from Pnyka. This all-time classic spot offers a panoramic view of the city and is ideal for chilling during the golden hour. Tons of people, locals and foreigners alike, gather there catching the sunset, with guitars, beers (yes, you can drink in public places), and ice-cream. At this time, the city looks close and distant at the same time. It’s always a good idea to go there if you want to clear your mind and experience a sense of serenity and inner peace.
Right on the opposite side of Pnyka, there is another beautiful hill called the hill of Philopappou. It has an amazing view of the Acropolis and there are always some concerts going on, so you can lie on the grass and enjoy the music.
Monastiraki – Psyrri. When it is getting warmer, the Athenians leave the jammed streets and climb up to the rooftops, where the atmosphere is cooler and the views are always better. Right in the center of Athens, in these two neighborhoods, you can find cafes and bars with amazing rooftops and breezy summer cocktails. My favorite is BIOS and A for Athens, but there are plenty to choose from.
With a history that spans over more than 3,400 years, Athens knows how to reinvent herself over time. In the crossroad of three continents, the city seems a bit torn between the old and the new, eastern and western cultures, but these contradictions are part of its beauty. In the end, Athens is an influential city that never goes unseen. Despite your agenda, be sure to consciously immerse yourself in its rhythm and experience its special charm, and it will be an unforgettable experience.