Stay in Athens
Overnight stay in Athens
How to make the most of your overnight stay in Athens.
Overnight stay at the airport
There are only two options: Comfortable and expensive or uncomfortable and cheap.
A few hours in Athens
For all who do not want to waste time at the airport.
Option 1: A short city tour to Athens
If you travel to Greece, fly to an island or spend your holidays on the mainland, you will inevitably come to Athens sooner or later. A Greek experience is not quite complete without exploring the Greek capital. Athens is not only the centre of the country, but also of European civilisation and the birthplace of our democracy. Wherever you go, the present and past are closely intertwined, so closely that even next to the most modern cafés, restaurants and shops, you can stumble across historical artefacts, while strolling through the city. Athens city centre in particular is characterised by the direct juxtaposition of modern architecture and impressive antiquities, in an abundance that, I would say, is only comparable to Rome. And towering above it all is the Acropolis - time and again visible from many different angles, no matter which alleyway you are strolling down.
A visit to Athens is a great way to start your holiday. For example, if you are planning a stay on an island, two or three days in the lively metropolis are a perfect start to your Greek vacation. After you have gathered a wealth of intense impressions in a short time, you can leave the mainland, perhaps quite leisurely by ferry, and devote yourself to the other, rural side of Greece. Plenty of nature, sun and sea.
From Athens airport to the city centre
There are various possibilities to get from Athens airport to the city centre. Depending on your personal preferences, you can weigh up the factors of time, cost and convenience.
The express bus X95 departs directly in front of the airport building and its terminus is Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens. The X95 runs every 15-30 minutes throughout the day, depending on the day of the week and time of day. The journey takes about an hour, although delays can occur due to traffic conditions in the city centre. Traffic moves very smoothly on the Attiki Odos motorway, but once you round Mount Ymmitos and turn towards the city centre, traffic jams can mess up your schedule. However, the X95 bus is the cheapest option.
Express busses at the airport: www.oasa.gr/en/visit-athens/airport-express-bus-lines/
Realtime information for X95: telematics.oasa.gr/en/#lineDetails_1025[...]
The metro station is just a few minutes away across a pedestrian bridge in front of the airport. Only line 3 departs from here, and since it is a terminus, orientation is easy. The line crosses the city centre, where Syntagma or Monastiraki are ideal hop-off stops. The journey takes around 40 minutes, which is not only faster than by bus, but also more reliable, as the metro is naturally not affected by traffic jams. Unlike the bus, however, the metro takes a night break between about 11.30 pm and 6.30 am. A metro ticket is slightly more expensive than a ticket for the express bus, but compared to a taxi or rental car, both are of course cost-effective solutions.
Metro Line 3, "Airport Timetables": stasy.gr/en/timetables/line-3/
When you leave the terminal on the arrivals level, you can't miss the taxi rank. Many years ago, a tourist-friendly fixed fare system was introduced for taxi transfers between Athens Airport and the city centre. There is just one day and one night fare, and you can be chauffeured to any destination within a defined zone, which roughly includes the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill. This fixed fare, which by the way also includes any extra charges such as the toll on the Attiki Odos, protects the inexperienced traveller from a non-transparent fare structure.
What may seem expensive and cumbersome at first glance, might be an interesting alternative: A rental car offers the greatest possible flexibility when travelling from the airport to Athens and does not necessarily have to be expensive. The car rental counters are located in the arrivals hall, and many companies have parked their rental cars in the designated car park not far from the building. Short distances, quickly completed paperwork, and you can be in your car and on your way within 20 minutes of collecting your luggage. If you want to move around Athens independently and not just walk through the Plaka, a rental car is a handy option. In recent years, we have exclusively chosen this offer and usually paid around 20 EUR per day, plus petrol. I can recommend Check24.de to pick a good deal, and I think two things are important: Firstly, 100% reimbursement of the excess and "premium protection", which saves financial hassle in the event of damage. And secondly, pick-up inside the terminal, because this excludes rental agencies who have to shuttle you to their rental station far off the airport. This is a time-consuming process that should be avoided.
Listing all the possible attractions for a multi-day stay in Athens is beyond the scope of this article. Even if you only spend two or three nights in the city, you can experience an incredible amount. A visit to Plaka is of course a must, because although the old town is very touristy, this hodgepodge of souvenir kitsch and handicrafts, quaint tavernas and modern bars, souvlaki shops and frozen-yoghurt parlours has such a unique character that it is impossible to imagine Athens without Plaka. In addition, the Acropolis deserves a visit to see it from above and not just from below, and then the truly sensational Acropolis Museum. A shopping spree in Ermou Street, witnessing the changing of Evzone guards in front of the Parliament, relaxing in the National Garden and watching the sunset from Mount Lykavittos - days in Athens can be filled in no time and will be remembered for years to come.
Hotels in Athens
I can confidently advertise the following hotels, as we know them from our own experience and have stayed there many times.
The name makes sense, because the Central Hotel is located on Apollonos Street, in the middle of Plaka. It is even within walking distance of Syntagma Square. From the hotel, you can quickly reach Adrianou Street, which runs in an arc across Plaka, and then you are almost halfway between the Acropolis and Monastiraki. The Central Hotel is surprisingly quiet, especially the rooms on the upper floors facing away from the street are very lovely, some of them with a view of the dome of a neighbouring church. From the "Thea Terrace Bar" on the roof you have a magnificent look on the Acropolis.
A for Athens
The A for Athens Hotel is located directly on Monastiraki, virtually on a corner of Plaka. The location is therefore not only perfect for a visit to Plaka, but also to the adjoining neighbourhoods of Thissio and Psirri, which have a lot to offer in terms of nightlife and gastronomy. The metro stops at Monastiraki, almost on the hotel's doorstep. We were once lucky enough to stay in a room with a panoramic window facing the Acropolis. It's quite close and seeing it brightly lit while lying in bed certainly won't make you close the curtains at night. The location on Monastiraki naturally brings with it some noise pollution, but you don't necessarily have to sleep away your time in Athens. The A for Athens is in a truly stunning location. The top two floors host both the breakfast buffet and the evening cocktail bar, with a rooftop terrace and views across the city to the Acropolis.
The 360 Degrees Hotel is also located directly on Monastiraki Square. So as far as location is concerned, the above applies equally. The rooms at 360 Degrees are modern and stylish. This hotel has also taken advantage of its privileged location, featuring not only the obligatory rooftop terrace but also a cocktail bar and restaurant on the upper floors. The terrace is spacious and offers great views of Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis.
We got to know the Zafolia Hotel when we first visited Athens by car. The hotel's own underground car park is an absolute plus for those looking for easy and safe parking facilities. The hotel is located just outside the centre, near Leoforos Alexandras (Alexandras Avenue). While elsewhere you have a view of the Acropolis, here you have a view of Mount Lykavittos. The mountain with the striking summit church is in the immediate vicinity, south of the Zafolia Hotel. From the roof terrace, you also have an astonishing view over Athens, all the way to Piraeus. On the same terrace is the pool for hotel guests, not to be underestimated for cooling off after a day in the hot summer city.
Option 2: An overnight stay in Athens
Sometimes, it is not possible to travel from home to Milos in one day. The only way to travel without an overnight stay is if the flight lands in Athens in time to catch a connecting flight to Milos on the same day. This is often not the case, especially in the low season, when there are far fewer flights than in summer. The same applies to the ferries, which on some days in winter do not travel to Milos at all. In the high season, on the other hand, the chances are good that you can continue your journey after a short stopover at Athens airport. My personal record for the Frankfurt-Athens-Milos route is a good 4 hours. However, it makes sense to plan at least two hours at Athens airport, otherwise the onward flight can quickly become tight due to unexpected delays.
So, what should you do if you have to stay overnight in Athens? I recommend timing your flights - if possible - so that you can have a nice evening in the city and sleep late the next morning. If you are forced to stay overnight, you should at least reap the benefits. On the other hand, if you arrive in Athens on a late flight, rush to the hotel and, after a too short night, hurry to catch an early morning flight to Milos, the stay will only cost you money and nerves.
Ideally, you should land in Athens in the afternoon at the latest. Then it takes about one and a half to two hours to reach your hotel in the city centre. This leaves time for a stroll through the old town, maybe even to the parliament. You should bear in mind that although restaurants, cafés and even confectioneries are open until late at night, shops close around 8 pm. So, rather explore the alleys of Plaka early enough, then go out to eat and, after a walk at the foot of the Acropolis, perhaps have an alcoholic drink in one of the roof-top bars or at Vrettos. If you don't start your onward journey to Milos until the afternoon the next day, either by flight or ferry, you can still enjoy a relaxed breakfast. This turns the forced overnight stay in Athens into an eventful stopover in a city that is really worth seeing.
Option 3: Overnight stay at the airport
If you arrive late in Athens and fly on to Milos early the next morning, a trip to the centre of Athens is not efficient. Usually, the only option then is to stay overnight at the airport, although the possibilities here are limited: Either you can spend the night in the "airport hotel" Sofitel, which is comfortable, relaxing and quite expensive. Or you stay over in the terminal, which is uncomfortable, not relaxing and completely free of charge. There is no alternative, we know both options from our own experience.
The Sofitel Athens Airport offers very comfortable rooms with exceptionally cosy beds. As the windows are extremely well soundproofed, you can sleep very well even though you are almost directly on the airport grounds. The alternative is idling around in the airport terminal hoping to get some sleep. The concept of the modern airport is to avoid just that, as there are deliberately no unobserved corners and no contiguous places to sit and thus lie down. In addition, it is bright, heavily air-conditioned and both the announcements and the music, which is actually pleasant during the day, make it hard to get any rest at night.
Option 4: A few hours in Athens
No overnight stay at all and still visit Athens? This is possible, provided you have several hours before your flight and good nerves. The most sensible and safest option is probably to simply stay at the airport, even if your stay is five hours or more. The most exciting and entertaining option, on the other hand, is to quickly drop off your luggage at the luggage storage at the end of the arrivals hall, take Metro 3 to Syntagma or Monastiraki, and enjoy a coffee there. You should always bear in mind the time the whole endeavour will take in reverse order.
Besides such a short trip to the city, there are also other alternatives to avoid hours of waiting at the airport. For example, you can reach Rafina in about 30 minutes by rental car, where you can spend your time on the beach or at the harbour. And if you're in the mood for shopping, the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, just a 20-minute drive from Athens Airport, is a great way to pass the time.