Athens is filled with winding streets to wander, beautiful cafes, bars and restaurants, and quirky accommodation options. Here are my five best areas to stay in Athens, with tips and photo inspiration from each and every one. Don’t say I don’t treat ya!
Athens is a city like no other I’ve ever visited. A mish-mash of ancient and new, with tourists and locals in equal abundance and always with something new to look at or a hidden corner to be stumbled upon. And, pals, as a true fan and strong supporter of a good wander, this is a city that I never got bored of strolling in.
I’ve stayed in a few different Athens neighbourhoods since I first visited a few years ago, so if you’re curious about which are the best areas in Athens to stay in, take a peek at this…
The Monastiraki district, centring around Monastiraki Square, has a chaotic but downright marvellous vibe. And it also includes a flea market, and all manner of people yelling things across the street at each other. I. LOVE. IT. And many people consider Monastiraki the best of the best areas to stay in Athens, because of its close proximity to all the sights, as well as the hubbub of this busy area.
Stalls and shop sell antiques, art, and a healthy dose of souvenirs in bulk, and there are a huge selection of restaurants thrown in for good measure. If you want to soak up a good amount of atmosphere and have a classic people-watching session, the Monistiraki neighbourhood is the place to come.
Monastiraki is also home to Hadrian’s Library– which was originally filled to the brim with papyrus scrolls as obv books weren’t really a thing back in the second century- and an old Ottoman mosque from back in the days of Ottoman rule. These days the official religion of the Greece is predictably Greek Orthodox, so the old mosque now houses the Museum of Traditional Art.
Where to stay in Monastiraki
One Three One is a boutique hotel so close to Monastiraki Square that you could practically touch it. The little hotel also has a roof terrace which is perfect for appreciating a good old fashioned sunset from.
Although it can get busy, Plaka is a rather more genteel affair than it’s neighbouring neighbourhoods. The oldest part of Athens (aside from the obvious archaeological hotspots), people affectionately call Plaka the ‘Neighbourhood of the Gods’ due to its location right next to the Acropolis.
The first time I visited Plaka was completely by accident. I exited the Acropolis by the Theatre of Dionysus and found myself in a quiet corner of Plaka as if I’d landed there in a dream, without even meaning to or realising. Buskers and flower sellers roam the colourful streets, and the fact that the tiny cobbled roads are pedestrianised means that I didn’t get the mildly panicked thrill that I felt crossing the road in other parts of Athens.
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Obviously the real hotspot to visit in Plaka is the Acropolis. The size of the area is incredible, not to mention the mind-blowing realisation that it’s so bloomin’ ancient.
For coffee in Plaka head to Yiasemi, a beautiful little cafe right on the steps leading up to the Acropolis. Yiasemi is filled to the brim with homemade treats, and always has a warm busy atmosphere. The steps outside the cafe are often filled with people tucking into something delicious, and there’s also a roof terrace for another tip-top Athens view.
Where to stay in Plaka
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Plaka, head to Acro & Polis. (Good name right!?) The hotel has six apartments right in the heart of Plaka, all beautifully decorated and fully equipped with kitchens and bathrooms.
Syntagma Square is the central hub of Athens, stretching down from the Hellenic Parliament building towards Ermou, a long shopping street filled with the classic H&Ms and Zaras which every other town and city in Europe (and potentially the world) has. Consider it the Piccadilly Circus of Athens, if you will.
But without the neon signs, thankfully, as they’d just look plain out of place in this part of the planet.
This really is Tourist Central Station (please mind the gap), and I’d strongly advise not stopping in Syntagma for a coffee/drink/meal/anything you’re planning on spending your hard-earned dollar on. You’ll get better tasting things elsewhere, without being ripped off. The massive pedestrianised centre of the square is a great place for a casual people-watching session. Syntagma Square is also the part of town you’re likely to arrive at should you arrive in Athens on public transport.
The beaut pastel yellow palace which is home of the Greek Parliament sits at the top end of Syntagma square, and it’s here that the changing of the guard takes place. There’s a full ceremony every Sunday at 11am, and an hourly guard-change other than that. If you don’t know anything about what takes place I strongly suggest you look into it.
The Greek changing of the guard is truly a sight to behold.
The National Garden, which you can enter right next to the Parliament building, is an oasis of calm in the crazy-busy commotion of the Greek capital. And on the opposite side of the garden to Syntagma Square is the most expensive road in Athens- Herodou Attikou Street.
This badboy street is home to the Maximos Mansion where the prime minister works, the Presidential Palace, and a whole load of super luxurious apartments; making it altogether a pretty stark contrast to the other neighbourhoods in Athens that I roamed. Armed soldiers and policemen patrol the wide and pristine roads, (even a few of the pom-pom adorned Evzone soldiers guard the area around here), and it’s got a bit of a South Kensington vibe about it, if ya know what I mean. (The London South Ken, not the Toronto one).
Where to Stay in Syntagma
For a seriously luxurious Athens hotel, head to the Hotel Grande Bretagne. This historic Athens hotel was built in 1842, and if you’re after a five star Greek experience, this is where you’ll find it. The hotel boasts spa facilities, a rooftop pool with bar (as well as one inside, of course), and a sense of opulence in every direction.
Probably my personal favourite of the best areas to stay in Athens, Psyri is a bohemian neighbourhood famed for its nightlife- although truth be told I’ve only really explored it during the day. Once upon a time back in the olden days- the olden days circa 1990 to be precise- Psyri was not the safest or most desirable place to hang out. However a whole load of gentrification has occurred here in the last few years and Psyri is now filled with local-owned bars, shops and restaurants. Taverns and clubs stay open late and the area as a whole has a lively and artistic atmosphere about it which I really appreciated.
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Psyri is where you can find the world famous Poet Sandal Maker, a true legendary fellow. Stavros Melissinos set up his sandal-making business in 1920, and then had a little side-hustle going as a poet from 1953 onwards, publishing poems and plays galore, some of which are now on the curriculum at US universities. A sign on the outside of his shop informs people that one of his plays, ‘Chastity Belt,’ was banned in Greece for political reasons, ‘of which he’s quite proud.’ He’s kind of a big deal, ya know!?
Not only that but Stavros has been making shoes for celebrities across the world from his humble shop, from Sophia Loren and Jackie O to The Beatles. Obviously a trip to Athens just wouldn’t be right without a stop at this place.
And my favourite place to get a coffee (and dessert) in Psyri is most certainly Little Kook. Little Kook changes its theme regularly, and they really go ABOVE AND BEYOND. In the past the exterior of the cafe has been dressed with anything from giant dragons to vintage carriages. And every aspect of the interior, and the street leading up to it, is decorated to fit the theme as well- right down to the bathrooms. It is incredible, but needs to be seen up close to be truly appreciated.
Where to stay in Psyri:
For budget accomodation in Psyri, head to Athenstyle Hostel. This bright boutique Athens hostel is extremely affordable and offers family and private rooms as well as your traditional hostel dorm rooms. Breakfast is on offer for a mere €4 per person. But the BEST thing about Athenstyle is, without a shadow of a doubt, its rooftop bar, which is open for non-guests and guests alike, and has 360º views across Athens and towards the Acropolis.
If your budget for staying in Psyri is bigger, check out The Frogs Guesthouse.
Definitely the lesser-known of the ‘best areas to stay in Athens,’ Pagrati is a residential neighbourhood, slightly outside the action of the city centre. It is an absolute secret hidden gem of an area in Athens, and this is the area that I tend to stay in when I visit.
The most ‘touristy’ highlight of the Pagrati area is without a doubt the Panathenaic Stadium- the site of the very first modern Olympic Games, and the only stadium in the entire world to be built entirely out of marble. It’s quite the luxurious site, you know!?
If you fancy pancakes or burgers or coffee in a US/Greek kind of style, my favourite place to go at all hours of the day or night is Poco Poco. This little diner-on-a-corner is open 24 hours a day and has delicious food, brilliant prices, and super friendly staff. For drinks and cocktails there are hundreds of quirky bars in the Pagrati district, and the most well-known of them all is the Chelsea Hotel. Confusingly the Chelsea Hotel is most definitely a bar, not a place of lodging. In the evenings and can get rather heaving so arrive early if you want to get a pavement spot.
Where to stay in Pagrati
As this is a residential area, your best bet for a stay in Pagrati is to head to an Airbnb. There are tonnes of Airbnb options to choose from, which are generally very affordable. Just bear in mind that if you’re staying in Pagrati you’ll either have further to walk (about 20 minutes) to the centre of Athens, or you can rely on public transport to get you closer to the action- not that Pagrati is short on action of its own.
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- As a lass travelling by myself, I didn’t ever feel unsafe walking around whether in the daytime or at night, although like any city in the world that’s not to say you should head down any old dark desolated alley with your laptop on full display. Not that I even own a laptop. Basically, my personal experience is that the centre of Athens is no less safe or unsafe than any other European city I’ve visited. The main thing to be aware of in terms of safety is probably pickpocketing.
- This is a mere HANDFUL of the best areas to stay in Athens. For other options, look at Kolonaki, Koukaki and Gazi.
- Whilst the transport network in Athens is pretty full on awesome, the city is also extremely walkable and has so many layers upon layers of buildings and streets sandwiched upon each other, that I preferred walking from A to B just to see what else I would discover each day. So even if you’re not staying in one of these areas, it’s still definitely worth checking each one out anyway.