How to spend 48 Hours in Athens

I’ll be totally honest here. Until recently, I don’t think Athens had ever really been on my radar as a city break.

Greece as a destination is overshadowed a little by the very Instagrammable islands of Mykonos and Santorini. We sort of forget about what the capital itself has to offer. And this is such a shame, because when I visited recently, my eyes were opened to how much it truly has to offer guests!

Beautiful winding side streets filled with blooming flowers and secret restaurants.

Centuries old history combined with street parties, flowing wine and delicious food.

It really is an incredible place to spend the weekend and I don’t want you to miss out either!

So just in case you have 48 hours to spare, here’s a little guide to my new favourite city!

Where to stay

Athens is full of accommodation options to suit a variety of budgets, so depending on how much you have to work with – you can plan accordingly. We were visiting as part of a campaign with The Post Office, which saw us trying to find money-saving tips for the trip, so we had to find somewhere luxurious, on a budget.

Eventually, we stumbled upon the Divani Caravel, which is located just outside of the main Syntagma square and so you get a little more for your money. It’s a five-star palatial offering and yet around £127 per night, so it’s really affordable if you’re trying to keep costs down.

Getting into the main square is just a 1 stop, 1 euro metro ride away, so you won’t miss out any of the action – and the extra walk means you can explore even more of the city in your 48 hour window!

The hotel also has a beautiful rooftop pool offering stunning views over Athens, so even if you want to make the most of the sunshine and take a dip, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the option is open to you!

For something in the heart of the action and with that same touch of luxury, I’d recommend the Electra Metropolis, where we spent one afternoon on their incredible rooftop terrace, which offers panoramic views over the city. We enjoyed a cocktail or two in the hotel and didn’t want to leave, so I’m sure the bedrooms are just as awe-inducing!

“True love, is breakfast in bed.”

What to see

Whether you’re a history buff, want to immerse yourself in the culture or love to shop, there’s something for everyone in Athens.

There’s certainly more than enough to fill a 48-hour window – in fact, I think you’ll probably have to miss some things out like we did!

Of course, one thing you don’t want to miss is Acropolis which towers over the city centre and fills every picturesque panoramic. You’ll have to hike up to the top (I say hike, it’s a few steps) but you’ll then be rewarded with the most awe-inspiring sights.

As one of the only ancient civilization structures still to exist in the Western world, it is the most significant point of reference for ancient Greek culture. Its beautiful marble white structure gleams in the sunshine, before taking on a honey hue at sunset, so it’s certainly somewhere you’ll want to visit for those all important Instagrams! There is a 20 euro fee to get up close – and there tends to be a very large queue for the ticket office, so if it is of interest, make sure to get there early!

And if you’re not quite as well-informed of the incredible past of this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you were when you were seven-years-old (who remembers doing Greek history back then?) then you’ll probably want to visit the new Acropolis museum, which helps to bring back to life the rich and varied history.

If shopping is your thing, then you’ll find plenty of places to satisfy your inner shopaholic in Athens, just bare in mind lots of the big shops close on public holidays and Sundays! In fact, the entirety of our stay was a public holiday – which was a bonus in terms of cocktail drinking (we were celebrating with them) but not so good if you were there to browse the shops.

However, there were a number of tiny markets throughout the town centre that were just as (if not more) interesting than the shops themselves, so it’s worth getting lost and taking a look down a side street to see what might be on offer. The flea market is a fascinating discovery, with jumbled tables filled with bric a brac, rather creepy looking dolls and assorted treasures.

While a further stroll reveals a more organised looking market with sculptures, handmade jewellery and artwork. Other markets can be a little touristic, with cheaper souvenirs and flags on sale – however there are some real gems on show if you have an hour or two to spend browsing.

What to eat

If you, like me, are a massive foodie (ie: travel means unlimited opportunities to eat and mealtimes are blurred) then you won’t be disappointed in a city like Athens, where food is firmly embedded into the culture.

For cheaper dining, you really can’t go wrong with the street food – which for the most part, is made up of gyros and giant pretzel-bagel crossbreed pastries, which line the cobbled paths, filling the area with the most delicious freshly baked scent. A gyro is essentially a seasoned meat of your choice in a giant fresh pitta bread, with salad and veg. It sounds simple but it’s incredibly delicious. So much so that we ordered another portion after finishing the first.

And for a sit-down experience, I’d recommend a traditional Greek Taverna that sits just beside the Divani Caravel (it doesn’t have a name but you won’t miss it). We arrived late one Friday night, when the streets were empty and we thought everyone had already gone to bed. However after stumbling across the Taverna, we realised where everyone had been hiding.

The glass fronted restaurant was bustling with locals, all enjoying mountainous portions of moussaka, souvlaki and dolmadakia with their families, the place erupting with shrieking laughter and children’s giggles. I always find that a place enjoyed by locals is the best place to really immerse yourself into your new surroundings – and we certainly struck lucky with this find.

For a more luxurious experience, head to the rooftop bar at the Electra Metropolis, which offers the most stunning setting for a lunch date, complete with a turquoise private pool. The cocktails are out-of-this-world (try the ginger and vanilla concoction) and you won’t want to miss out on their bread selection either, complimented by a platter of traditional Greek dips. It’s a much more serene place to absorb Athens, with a gorgeous view of Acropolis.

And if you want something that isn’t Greek (sometimes a change is nice) then head to Taqueria Maya for the most delicious burrito you’ll ever taste. Run by a Greek and American husband and wife duo, this is favoured among locals for it’s incredibly flavoursome guacamole and taco selection, which can be tweaked to suit if you have dietary requirements. It’s a very small little place (5 or so tables) but it’s perfect if you want an authentic Mexican feast with a Greek twist!

“It’s a much more serene place to absorb Athens, with a gorgeous view of Acropolis!”

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How to get there

The flight time to Athens is around three and a half hours, while the time difference is two hours ahead, so you essentially have to factor in six hours for your journey if you’re aiming to make the most of your long weekend in the city.

Easyjet and Ryanair offer very affordable return deals, while British Airways also flies there too!

The city centre is around 25-35 minutes from the airport, so expect to spend around 38 euros on a one-way taxi to your hotel.

If you’re planning a trip, also take a look at:

The Blonde Abroad

The Travelista

Urban Travel Blog

Nomadic Matt

Have you ever been to Athens? Do you have any recommendations of your own – or would you like to visit?

My trip was organised and compensated for by The Post Office, as part of their 12in12 campaign, however all words are entirely my own!