36 hours isn’t enough in Athens, one of the world’s oldest cities. When guidebooks say to skip the ancient city, we say spend a week exploring. Ancient ruins near subway stations, stray cats everywhere, world-class street art, quality coffee and food, there’s a lot to experience in Athens.
Here are the recommendations after spending 36-too-short-hours in Athens with my wife, six-year-old daughter, and two friends. (Declaring it a new favorite city, we all vowed to return.)
- Chicken gyro at Ambrosia – Souvlaki, a no-frills Greek restaurant recommended by our local host.
- Loukoumades (Greek doughnut holes) and vegetable risotto at Ama Lachei, a small plates restaurant with a spacious outdoor patio.
- “The Benedict” (eggs Benedict with crispy onions) from Philos Athens, a design-forward restaurant in a 1930s artist studio.
- Cocktails at Meno Male, a small Italian restaurant with excellent burrata with marmalade.
- Freddo latte from Samba Coffee Roaster, a corner coffee shop with outdoor seating.
- Latte from Taf Coffee, a small cafe with attentive service on a block of other cafes.
- Climb plant-lined stairs (often with city cats resting) in Pangrati, a neighborhood east of many of the tourist sites.
- Shop at local stores for trinkets, clothes, and more at the Athens Flea Market. (To see murals decorating storefronts, go just after sunrise before the shops open.)
- Visit the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
- Walk along tiny, steep streets in Anafiotika, a neighborhood with views just north of the Acropolis. (If you go, be quiet and respectful.)
- Acropolis lit at night from a nearby rooftop. (We did this from a friend’s flat’s balcony, but there are many rooftop restaurants and bars with the same view.)
- 360-view of the city from the rooftop gardens and lookout at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a cultural hub with the national library, a theatre, and more.
- Ruins everywhere. (We decided to not buy tickets to see them up close as many can be found for free in stores, near subway stations, etc.)
- Street art on almost every block, but especially in Exarcheia, a progressive neighborhood with bookstores, cafes, and more.
- Sunrise from Areopagus Hill, the site of the Apostle Paul’s sermon in Acts 17.