The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Ymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills [the seven historical ones are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, Lykavittos (Lycabettus), Tourkovounia (Anchesmus)], the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens’ boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city’s ancient (and still bustling) port.
Places of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square. This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki and Thissio to the west, Kolonaki to the northeast and Omonia to the northwest.
More information on Wikitravel
The new Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport 27 km (17 miles) east of the city center, near the suburb of Spáta, opened in 2001 as part of the infrastructure improvements in preparation for the Olympics and is allegedly now one of the more attractive and efficient major European airports, though some old Athenian hands say they miss the messy atmosphere of the old Hellenikon. The airport has excellent public transit connections to the city (see below) and the usual array of food stands, duty-free shops, and other airport services.
There is a Tourist information station in Arrivals that will have the latest literature put out by the Tourist Information Department; this is useful for getting information of arranged local festivities in Athens and Attica. They will also have a printed brochure of Ferry information from Piraeus and other Attica ports.
There is also a small museum on the top floor that has an interesting history on Athens as well as a space put aside for temporary exhibits.
You are going to need euro coins if you want a trolley for your luggage; trolleys are available at the airport, you will find them in the baggage hall on arrival and they use coins the same way supermarket trolleys do. You insert your coin, and you get it back by placing the trolley back to its original position.
If you stay in Athens for a short time, consider leaving part of your luggage in a baggage storage. It is run by Pacific Travel and is located in the end of left-hand wing, arrivals level. Storage time differentiates between 6 to 36 hours and sizes vary from small to large. The only inconvenience is that the same queue is used for collecting and for leaving – allow extra time before your flight. No automatic lockers can be found in the airport.
If your schedule has you arriving on a long flight with some fatigue likely, you might use the decent Sofitel hotel at the airport, just a short walk from the arrivals hall. As a popular business hotel, you’d best reserve your room in-advance, and ask for a non-smoking room if important.
There is Free WiFi in the Airport, which is limited to one hour, with no promise of security. However when your time is up if you shut down your computer, you can log back in for another hour.
Don’t forget to validate your ticket before going down to the platform and boarding a train (there are validation machines at the top of the escalators in the ticket hall). Failure to validate your ticket at the start of the journey can mean a fine of up to €120. The ticket inspectors are rigorous and won’t hesitate to call for police assistance if you start to object.
The airport Metro line is an extension of Line 3 (blue line) which takes you to the downtown Syntagma and Monastiráki stations. Note that at the airport train station, two types of trains – metro trains and suburban trains – arrive at the same platform. If you are travelling into the city centre, you should take the metro trains (2/hour, usually departs at :05 and :35, daily 6:00 to 23:30). From the Airport, the metro (blue) train takes 40 minutes to reach Syntagma and 43 minutes to reach Monastiráki.
If you are heading into Athens to see the Acropolis, you can use the Metro (blue) line to go from the Airport straight to Monastiráki station near the northern side of the Acropolis. An alternative is to go to Syntagma station, where you change from the blue line to the red line heading south, and get off at the first stop of Acropolis metro station which is at the southern more photogenic side of the Acropolis.
Those taking the Metro from Athens out to the Airport should note that not all trains on the blue line go all the way to the airport; typically the airport trains run every half hour, while trains in the intervals don’t go the whole route. Airport trains are indicated on the schedule and by an airplane logo on the front of the train, they are also announced by the signs on the metro platform. It’s useful to go to the Metro station the day before, explain to the agent (most speak English) when you need to be at the airport, and ask what time you should catch the airport train from that station. You can also get this information at the airport metro station, which has a desk staffed most hours by someone who speaks English. It’s possible but not necessary to buy your ticket in advance; buying in advance though means you won’t risk missing your train if you find at the last minute you don’t have change for the ticket machines and have to stand in a line to buy it from the agent.
Athens doesn’t have services with local drivers such as Uber, Hailo or Lyft for the time being. However there is a service, Athens Welcome Pickups, that enables local Athenians to pick you up from the airport, drive you to your destination and give you a meaningful introduction to the city or a quick tour. It costs €35 flat and the price is fixed and pre-paid. It is advisable to grab a free copy of city transport map in the airport – in the city it is extremely helpful.