We live in Athens, and for us, it is one of the nicest cities in the world. Independently from what we think, it is one of the most extraordinary places in Europe. Its ancient ruins are a testament to when the city was the center of the Western world. Numerous medieval churches are remnants of Byzantine times. Likewise, the historical area surrounding the Acropolis is from Ottoman times. There are also nice parks and stunning modern architecture. Thus, where to stay in Athens is essential to explore it all! As locals, we know the best neighborhoods and hotels in town.
Athens is a fairly big city, but most of its sites are close to the center. Thus, we recommend staying in one of the central areas. You’ll be a step away from the attractions and well connected with the airport, train and bus stations, and the port. If you have extra time, we suggest spending a day or two by the coast, on Athens Riviera. We’ve chosen two fantastic locations with superb hotels.
- 1 Where to Stay in Athens close to Attractions
- 2 Where to Stay in Athens for Couples
- 3 Where to Stay in Athens with Family
- 4 Where to Stay in Athens on a Budget
- 5 Where to Stay Near Athens
- 6 Where is the Best Place to Stay in Athens
- 7 Where Not to Stay in Athens
- 8 How Long to Stay in Athens
Where to Stay in Athens close to Attractions
Plaka is one of Athens’ oldest neighborhoods. It was developed around ancient Athens along the south slope of the Acropolis. During Ottoman times it was the Turkish neighborhood and the seat of the Governor. A little north of it lies Anafitoika with Cycladic-style houses. Today, Plaka hosts several original Byzantine churches. Athens cathedral and the oldest house in town are here too!
Due to its historical charm and superb location, Plaka is probably the best place to stay in Athens. This is also where some of the nicest bars and restaurants are. The whole neighborhood is pretty atmospheric, right at the foothill of the Acropolis. Most hotels in Plaka are small, but there is a great number to choose from. If you are wondering where to stay in Athens for one night, Plaka is probably your best option!
In Plaka We Recommend:
Though some consider Monastiraki as part of Plaka, it has its distinct character. The whole area is named after the fabulous Monastiraki Square. Two streets on both sides of the square sell goods in a souk-style market. There is also a flea market and numerous antique shops. While Plaka looks more European, Monastiraki feels Middle Eastern.
The square opens up to the Acropolis with the large Tzitzarakis Mosque on your left. There is another mosque a few steps behind, both Greek and Roman Agoras are here too, just like the Hadrian’s Library. Monastiraki boasts a relatively small area, thus there aren’t many hotels here. It is the best area to stay in Athens if you are into history and archeology.
Some of the Best Hotels in Monastiraki:
Where to Stay in Athens for Couples
When we talk about the Center, we refer to the triangular area between the city’s main squares Syntagma, Omonia, and Monastiraki. This neighborhood is somewhat newer than Plaka and Monastiraki, but still quite charming. In recent times, most of the streets have been closed for pedestrians and it’s now a fabulous car-free zone. Athens’ main street Ermou passes through the Center. If you are looking for the most central place to stay in Athens, this is the one.
There aren’t that many attractions in the Center itself. Nevertheless, this is the best-connected area of the city. Two Byzantine churches and two nice neoclassical ones are here. This is also the best option to stay if you are coming to Athens for shopping. The big brands are on Ermou, while the smaller specialized shops are in the side streets. There are numerous hotels in the Center, of all kinds of styles and budgets.
In the Center Stay at:
The neighborhood east of Venizelou Street is called Kolonaki. This is the fanciest area in downtown Athens. Locals and tourists who like to be seen are all here shopping in high-end shops and sipping cocktails in posh bars and restaurants. Apart from Lycabettus Hill, north of Kolonaki, there are a few sights in the neighborhood itself. The old National Library and two adjacent neoclassical palaces are its most impressive buildings.
Most 5 star and other luxury hotels in Athens are in Kolonaki. The neighborhood is perfectly connected with the airport and the sea through the metro and tram on Syntagma Square. The center point of the area is the rectangular Kolonaki Square with two popular pedestrian streets next to it. Kolonaki is perfect for those who like showing off and spending money.
The Best Accommodation in Kolonaki:
Where to Stay in Athens with Family
Thisseio is our favorite neighborhood in the whole of Athens. This small neighborhood is perfectly tucked between the Greek Agora, Philopappo Hill, Ancient Kerameikos Cemetery, and Gazi, the epicenter of Athen’s nightlife. It’s a quiet neighborhood with wonderful pedestrian streets, yet close to the most important sites. It’s the only somewhat off-the-beaten-track area in downtown Athens.
To us, this is the best neighborhood to stay in Athens. Unfortunately, there aren’t many hotels and private accommodation on offer. Those few are some of the best 3-star hotels in Athens. The pedestrian Apostolou Pavlou is where Greek philosophers used to walk. Yes, the whole city walks about the area, but the views are simply unforgettable. If you are looking for something more intimate, nearby Iraklidon is arguably Athens’ most charming street.
Great Hotels in Thisseio:
Koukaki has long been a rundown unattractive area south of the Acropolis. However, due to its fantastic location, it flourished a decade ago. It all started about the time the new Acropolis Museum opened in 2009. Several chic bars and cafes, shops, and restaurants have since opened in one of Koukaki’s two pedestrian streets.
Koukaki is considered the cool neighborhood of Athens. Many young hip people live here today. Apart from the numerous private rentals, there are quite a few nice hotels. If you would love to enjoy the views of the Acropolis, stay at a hotel in Koukaki. This neighborhood is home to some of the best 4-star hotels in Athens.
In Koukaki we Recommend:
Where to Stay in Athens on a Budget
Psyri is a tiny neighborhood just north of Monastiraki. The formerly devastated area was revamped and is now a fashionable and cool nightlife district. Psyri is an example of what successful gentrification should look like. Since the arrival of bars, taverns, and hotels it has experienced an impressive facelift. It is without a doubt the most colorful Athenian neighborhood.
Today, Psyri hosts some of the best hotels to stay in Athens. Most of them are boutique hotels with great contemporary designs. Many offer views of the Acropolis from the rooms or roof terraces. Though the area is quite touristy, locals come here to have fun too. Some of the most impressive street art pieces are in Psyri. Stay here if you are on a budget and don’t mind the occasional noise.
Some of the Best Hotels in Psyri:
Of all the great places to stay in Athens, Exarcheia is the most alternative one. The hood is known all around Greece due to its anarchic feel. Many activists, artists, and other young open-minded people live in the neighborhood. Its main square is always full of people having fun. Local restaurants and bars are some of the coolest in town.
Unlike its eastern neighbor Kolonaki, Exarcheia is somewhat rundown. But don’t get fooled by its appearance. Just like Psyri, Exarcheia hosts fantastic street art. There aren’t many hotels in the area, instead, it is one of the hotspots for short-stay apartments in Athens. Don’t worry about the proximity to Omonia, Exarcheia is super safe.
In Exarcheia Stay at:
Where to Stay Near Athens
If you have an extra day or two and are wondering where to stay near Athens, we have a suggestion for you. Of all the coastal places in Metropolitan Athens, Vouliagmeni is by far the nicest. It is at the southern end of the metropolitan area, after Glyfada and Voula. Apart from several nice sandy beaches, the area is known for the unusual Vouliagmeni Lake. The small lake has warm seawater and functions as a natural spa.
Vouliagmeni is the favorite place on Athens Riviera for the rich and famous. As you can imagine, most hotels here are quite pricey. Some of them even have a private beach or two. So, come to Vouliagmeni if you are into luxury and class.
The Best Accommodation in Vouliagmeni:
If you have even more time, we invite you to go a little further. Cape Sounion is a small peninsula at the southernmost tip of Attica (Athens’ region). It is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and the imposing Temple of Poseidon. The Doric temple from 5th century BC is one of the best examples of ancient architecture from the so-called Golden Age of Athens. The temple is open year-round and is well worth a visit.
There is no real settlement next to Sounion. Thus, you have to stay in one of two luxury hotels. Athens, like the rest of Greece, excels in hotels, and this the right place to stay in some of the best. One of the two hotels is directly on the peninsula, just under the temple. The other one is across, offering majestic views of the temple. Whichever you choose you’ll have a fantastic time.
Great Hotels in Sounion:
Where is the Best Place to Stay in Athens
As mentioned before, our favorite area in Athens is Thisseio. It is next to the ancient sites, yet somewhat secluded. In spite of its central location it is pretty authentic and local. That said, if you have only 24 hours the best location to stay in Athens would be close to Syntagma and Monastiraki squares. The modern metro to the airport stops under both squares, while the old metro to Piraeus port stops in Monastiraki.
We have divided the city depending on your interest and type of people you are traveling with. If your main goal is to see as many attractions as possible stay in Plaka or Monastiraki areas. If you are visiting with your loved one, stay in the Center or Kolonaki. Those traveling with family should choose between Thisseio and Koukaki. Finally, if you are on the budget, stay either in Psyri or in Exarcheia.
Where Not to Stay in Athens
If you are wondering where not to stay in Athens, the list won’t be that long. The whole city is pretty safe, though some areas can be dodgy, with occasional pickpockets (it’s nothing compared to Barcelona for example). When we talk about safe areas to stay in Athens we refer to the central area surrounding the Acropolis, except for few neighborhoods. Staying far from the center doesn’t make much sense, as Athens doesn’t have the best public transport.
We do not recommend staying in Kerameikos and Metasourgio neighborhoods. It’s not the most pleasant area, though some of the best bars in Athens are here. Gazi, next to Kerameikos, is quite safe, but doesn’t host many accommodation options. Finally, we don’t recommend staying anywhere south, west or north of Omoneia. Exarcheia, Psyri and Center are not far from Omonia, but have a very different vibe.
How Long to Stay in Athens
You are probably asking yourself how long you should stay in Athens. This is always difficult to answer. It really depends on your interests. If you are into tourist attractions you don’t need to spend more than 2-3 days. Athens does host some of the most spectacular ancient sites, but they are all next to each other. The historical Plaka and Monastiraki districts are not too big either, and there are only a handful of first class museums.
If you only have 24 hours in Athens, spend them exploring the main ancient ruins and Plaka + Monastiraki area. We recommend visiting the Acropolis, the Agora and Kerameikos cemetery. If you have an extra day, visit the Acropolis Museum, the Archeological Museum and explore the street art of Psyri and Kerameikos. If you plan on spending three or more days, add modern architecture to that list. We recommend the 2004 Olympic Complex and Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Go to Piraeus or Kifissia if you like to explore quirky neighborhoods.