Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Athens—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.
Enchanting time warp of whitewashed alleys and pastel cottages, created by migrant workers from Anafi island, who built the capital of newly independent Greece in 1841. “Houses are practically built into the sacred rock of the Acropolis, yet it feels like a Cycladic island village.”—Theodora Mantzaris, design director, 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games. Between Lysicrates Monument and Kanellopoulos Museum, Plaka.
“Stylish, modern, and user-friendly. Admire Greek folk art and costumes at the original museum; modern design and architecture at the trendy new annex.”—Kimon Frangakis, editor, Status magazine. Both have excellent cafés and gift shops. Koumbari 1 and Vassilisis Sofias Avenue, Kolonaki; tel. 30 210 367 1000; fee. New wing: Piraeus 138 and Andronikou; tel. 30 210 345 3111. www.benaki.gr
City of Athens Museum
“Royal memorabilia, period paintings, and prints convey an almost vanished Athens of enormous charm and innocence. Prize exhibit is an 1842 scale model of the new capital.”—Diana Farr Louis, author, Athens and Beyond: 30 Day Trips and Weekends. 5-7 Paparrigopoulou, Klafthmonos Square; tel. 30 210 324 6164; fee. www.athenscitymuseum.gr
“If you don’t want to miss your workout, there’s a small racetrack behind the marble Panathenaic Stadium, with dazzling views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus hill.”—Kimon Frangakis. Access from Archimidous Street, Pangrati.
National Archaeological Museum
Greece’s largest museum, with over 20,000 exhibits, from prehistoric frescoes to classical sculpture. “Amazing collection of ancient vases, so simple in design, yet so technically accomplished.”—Theodora Mantzaris. 44 Patission Avenue; tel. 30 210 821 7717; fee. http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/eh151.jsp?obj_id=3249
Housed in a fantastic building by Ernst Ziller, this little-visited, newly renovated museum houses some 500,000 ancient coins. Panepistimiou 12, Syntagma; tel. 30 210 364 3774; fee. www.nma.gr
- Nat Geo Expeditions
“Architect Santiago Calatrava’s showpiece can hold any event, but is just as impressive without the crowds.”—Theodora Mantzaris. 75,000-seat stadium hosts pop concerts and football matches. Sixteen professional courts at Olympic Tennis Center available for hire (8 a.m.-10 p.m. in summer; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. in winter). Kifissias Avenue 37; entrance from Spyrou Louis, Gate A; tel. 30 210 683 4060 61 or tel. 30 210 683 4562 3 (tennis courts). www.oaka.com.gr
“Symbolizes ancient Hellenism with a touch of ancestor worship; it’s also the rock to which Greeks have clung throughout their stormy history and in which each generation and individual finds its own significance.”—Sofka Zinovieff, author, Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens. Go early morning or evening to avoid the crowds. Ticket booth above Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou; tel. 30 210 321 4172-3; fee. http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh351.jsp?obj_id=2384
Parisian gallerist Renos Xippas has set up shop in a 1960s apartment block with a large Greek spice dealer in the basement. “The whiff of curry follows you to the second floor, where Athens’ most avant-garde gallery is hidden.”—Kimon Frangakis. Sophokleous 53D; tel. 30 210 331 9333. www.xippas.com