Sleeping in Airports

Athens Airport Layover Sightseeing

This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Athens. 

Athens Airport Layover Sightseeing
(photo credit: TTstudio / Shutterstock)

Known for its ancient ruins, vibrant neighbourhoods, and delicious culinary traditions, Athens should be on every traveller’s bucket list. From the magnificent Acropolis to the central market, and the Psirri neighbourhood, you will never get bored in the cradle of Western civilization. But what if you ended up here only because of a layover? Athens International Airport is located about 35 km east of the city centre, giving you the chance to spend a few hours in this unique metropolis before heading to your next destination. So, what are the best sites to visit when you only have limited time in Athens?  Read on to find out:

Airport Overview

If you are on a short layover and are afraid of missing your next flight by venturing into the city centre, you can simply stay inside the airport and still get a glimpse of Greek ancient civilization and current culture.  Athens Airport hosts a few permanent exhibitions showcasing archaeological artifacts discovered in Mesogaia and educating visitors about the crucial role that ex-Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos played in the country’s aviation development. Alternatively, you can enjoy a healthy Greek salad in one of the many restaurants scattered all over the airport, spend some time checking your emails or chatting with friends thanks to the free WIFI, or visit the nearby Metropolitan Expo Centre, easily reachable through a free shuttle bus service. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Athens Airport Guide.

Athens Sightseeing Attractions

Below are a few of the top things to do in Athens:

Hop-on Hop-off Buses

Parliament Athens
(photo credit: / Shutterstock)

If you want to see a bit of everything but have limited time, your best option is to opt for one of the many Hop-on Hop-off bus services in the city. These allow you to see all of Athens’ main landmarks from the comfort of your seat while giving you the freedom to hop off whenever you want and spend some extra time in whatever location you want to visit in depth. Some of the sites often included in the tours are the Acropolis, Parthenon, National History Museum/ Old Parliament, National Archeological Museum and more.

  • How to get there: Most tours depart from the city centre. You can just get a metro or bus to Monastiraki, the city’s main square, and figure it out from there. The trip will last from 35 to 45 minutes depending on traffic.
  • Time required: Tours last from two to five hours. Choose the right one for you based on your schedule and also keep into account the time needed to visit some of the sites.
  • Plan your visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about Hop-on/Hop-off buses, book a tour or read traveller reviews.

The Acropolis

(photo credit: Tomas Marek / Shutterstock)

A bit like the Tour Eiffel for Paris and the Colosseum for Rome, the Acropolis is considered Athens’s main landmark. This ancient citadel is home to several ancient buildings of which the most famous is, without a doubt, the Parthenon, dating back to the fifth century BC. Do you need an extra reason to visit? From here, you will have the best view of Athens!

  • How to get there: The Acropolis is in the heart of Athens. Any bus or metro from the airport will stop within walking distance of this site. Ideally, you want to head to Monastiraki, the city’s main square, and then walk to the Acropolis from there. The airport is 35 km away from the city centre, so your trip will last from 45 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic.
  • Time required: Budget at least two hours to see all the buildings in the Acropolis and enjoy the view.
  • Plan your visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Acropolis, book a tour or read traveller reviews.

Varvakios Agora

Varvakios Agora in Athens’ central market. This is the perfect place to visit if you want to try some Greek food or buy some local products to bring back home. You will find most of the meat and fish inside, while veggies and other products are located in the outside area. This area is also home to a little flea market selling bizarre objects, such as musical instruments with broken strings, old cutlery and kitchen supplies, and ancient gramophones.

  • How to get there: Varvakios Agora is located in the city centre. Take any bus or metro departing from the airport and stop at Monastiraki. From here, you will be able to reach this site with an 8-minute walk.
  • Time required: It will take you about an hour or less to visit this market and buy a few local products.

Psirri Neighbourhood

Psirri is one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Athens. Get a coffee in the eccentric Little Kook or simply stroll around and soak in the Greek culture all around you. This neighbourhood also abounds in colourful graffiti and inspiring art galleries.

  • How to get there: You can reach the Psirri neighbourhood by taking the metro or one of the many buses departing from the Athens Airport and then stopping in Monastiraki. From here, it is just a five-minute walk.
  • Time required: This depends on what you want to do. You can spend anywhere from 90 minutes to four hours or more here.
  • Plan your visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Psirri neighbourhood, book a tour or read traveller reviews.

Airport Transportation

To put it simply, it will take you about 45 minutes to one hour to reach Athens city centre from the airport. You have several options to do so, here are a few.

  • Metro Line 3 is one of the fastest ways to reach the centre, as it allows you to avoid Athens’ crazy traffic. Line three stops right at the centre of the city, at Monastiraki.
    The suburban rail is another great option. There are several trains departing every hour from the airport and taking passengers to the city centre. Here is a link with extra info.
    There are also several buses to choose from. You will find them all at the arrival level between exits 4 and 5.
    Of course, you can also opt for an Uber. A ride to the centre will cost you about 45 euros.

For extra info, visit Athens Airport’s official website.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Great, you’re now ready for your layover adventure! But before venturing outside of the airport stay with us for a few extra minutes. There are a few things you may still want to consider before your trip.

  • Do you need a Visa? This depends on your nationality. Check out Greece’s official website for extra info.
  • When should you go back to the airport? Make sure not to arrive at the airport last minute or you may miss your flight. Check with your company how long in advance you should be there and give yourself enough time to go through the security checks.
  • What about your luggage? Always check with your airline whether you will have to take care of your luggage, between flights. In case you need to pick it up, you can leave your luggage in one of the storage facilities at the airport.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: