Our hotels in Athens
Browse hotels in Athens
The abrupt appearance of graceful columned ruins in the middle of the contemporary urban sprawl; a glance upwards at night to where the illuminated Parthenon stands sentinel above a sea of city lights; ancient treasures enshrined in thoroughly modern museum spaces… This is the dichotomy – and the unique appeal – of Greece's enchanting capital.
In the city often cited as the birthplace of democracy, there truly is something for everyone, whether you're a history buff wanting to walk in the footsteps of Hellenistic legends or a gourmet hoping to sample Greece's legendary cuisine at its source. And when the (considerable) bustle of life in the capital gets too much, the Aegean coast tempts with a plethora of attractive beaches located within easy reach of the city centre. Accor's selection of local hotels is just as diverse, offering choices for every budget, preference and type of holiday in Athens. For the best possible rates, book direct via the ALL Accor website.
Best Things to Do in Athens
Many of the best places to visit in Athens are located in and around the old town, or Plaka district, with its cobblestone alleyways and tourist-oriented shops and taverns. First and foremost, the neighbourhood is a natural jumping off point for the Acropolis, in whose mighty shadow it sits. The ancient citadel stands atop a natural plateau and remains the most recognisable landmark in Athens more than 2,500 years after its construction. The climb to the top is absolutely worth it for a close-up view of its many timeless monuments.
Start at the Parthenon, the vast Doric temple built of gleaming marble to honour the city's patron deity, Athena Parthenos. At the other end of the size spectrum is the Temple of Athena Nike, or Athena in her incarnation as the goddess of victory. This diminutive temple is the smallest on the Acropolis but also one of the most beautiful, with a reputation as an exemplar of Ionic architecture. For an overview of the Acropolis complex's rich history, be sure to visit the Acropolis Museum, where contemporary exhibition halls house a treasure trove of statues, ceramics and friezes recovered from the ancient citadel.
Back at ground level, the area around the Acropolis is studded with other breathtaking examples of the Ancient Greeks' architectural prowess. A stroll through the Ancient Agora is a voyage back in time to an era when the likes of Socrates and Plato gathered in public to debate the philosophies that shaped Western civilisation. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was once the largest temple on the Greek mainland; today, 15 of its 17-metre columns continue to preside over the city centre as they have for millennia.
Meanwhile, Athens' theatres are best represented by the fifth-century Theatre of Dionysus and its neighbour, the Roman Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The latter still hosts open-air concerts and performances on balmy summer evenings – an unforgettable experience for anyone who attends. With so many monuments to explore, the sheer scope of Athens' ancient history can sometimes feel overwhelming. To discover it all in one place, head to the National Archaeological Museum. The largest and most important museum in Greece, it contains more than 11,000 exhibits spanning all eras from prehistory to late antiquity.
Athens Beaches and Parks
The Greek capital is more than a living history lesson, however. When (if) you tire of its monuments and museums, there are many areas of natural beauty to discover. One such spot is Philopappos Hill, a wooded summit in the middle of the city centre with shaded walking trails and spectacular Acropolis views. Time your hike to the top to coincide with sunset, looking out for a Greek Orthodox church filled with frescoes and the stone-hewn prison where Socrates was once incarcerated as you go. The National Garden is another oasis, filled with rare trees and plants from all over the world as well as a conservatory, café and children's library.
Those with a little more time on their hands can also explore the many beautiful nature areas and beaches of the Athens Riviera. This stretch of coastline extends from the port of Piraeus all the way to the tip of the peninsula at Sounion. Top stops along the way include Lake Vouliagmeni, a saltwater lake with thermal springs and an impressive cave system; andAstir Beach, a playground for the Athenian elite famous for its sapphire waters and caster-sugar sands. Alternatively, Athens boat trips to the islands of the Saronic Gulf offer a complete getaway from city life.
Must-Try Dishes in Athens
Steeped in history and shaped by the many different people who make up its population, the capital is inevitably the best place in the country to sample the full smorgasbord of Greek cuisine. Crowds linger over lunch or gather late in the evening for dinner at pavement cafés and taverns, where typical menu items include world-famous staples such as moussaka (a kind of aubergine and beef lasagna) and souvlaki (skewered meat, eaten as is or in a pita wrap, known as a gyros).
To experience traditional Greek dining at its most sociable, book a table at an Athens meze restaurant. Here, delicacies ranging from hummus and tzatziki to dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), calamari and oil-drizzled olives are served in portions meant for sharing with friends and family. When you're too busy to stop for a full meal, street stalls and bakeries specialise in sumptuous pastries that run the gamut from the savoury (spinach and feta spanakopita) to the sweet (phyllo-encased custard bougatsa, or baklava flavoured with nuts and honey).
When it comes to drinks, don't miss out on frappé, the mainstay of Athenian coffee culture; or ouzo, the ubiquitous anise-flavoured aperitif found in every self-respecting Athens bar.
Best Hotels in Athens, Greece
Wondering where to stay on your cultural visit to Athens? The Accor portfolio includes Athens accommodation options to suit every kind of traveller. For a luxury hotel in the city centre, choose MGallery – a boutique gem that's custom-made for romantic getaways, with panoramic Acropolis views from the rooftop pool and a sophisticated cocktail bar that doubles as a fine art gallery. Alternatively, our 5-star Sofitel property is an elegant choice for those in need of an Athens airport hotel. Located a two-minute walk from the terminals, it spoils with a full-service spa and gourmet Greek restaurant.
Those with kids in tow are likely to appreciate an Athens hotel with a pool for cooling off in between sightseeing excursions. Our Novotel family hotel fits the bill perfectly, with an idyllic outdoor swimming area, rooms and suites capable of sleeping up to four people, and convenient proximity to some of the best places in Athens – including the National Archaeological Museum. If you're in town on business and need a well-equipped coworking space, the Novotel also offers a choice of 10 different meeting rooms, while our ibis Styles hotel offers similar facilities at the lower end of the price spectrum.
Getting To and Around Athens
Many visitors arrive in Athens, and indeed Greece, via Athens International Airport, the largest in the country. It is located roughly 35 kilometres east of the city centre and offers direct air links to numerous destinations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. From the airport, you can travel to (and around) the city proper by metro, bus or taxi. Athens also has a large train station with services connecting it to most major domestic destinations as well as a few international ones – namely Istanbul, Sofia, Belgrade and Bucharest. Travelling by ferry to Athens? The Port of Piraeus is the largest passenger port in Europe. Frequented by cruise ships, it's also the main departure point for anyone wanting to visit Greece's islands.