Greece is made for family vacations; that’s a fact that’s pretty much been known since the dawn of mass tourism. But playing on the beach on an island is one thing, and getting to know the capital is another.
Athens can be hot and busy, the traffic is loud and the many sites often involve climbing steps and hills. It may not seem like a place a child would necessarily enjoy. But if you plan it right, a trip to Athens can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family, full of memories that will last a lifetime.
A number of companies arrange tours specially designed for kids; museums teach them about the birth of science and democracy in ancient Greece; and amusement parks and playgrounds are on hand to provide fun breaks in the sightseeing program.
Tours that Kids will Love
Who says sightseeing can’t be super fun for your kids? Even if they’re not budding history professors, the ancient sites in Athens have the advantage of being tightly tied to myths and colorful stories that kids love.
The tours below are designed for kids accompanied by a parent or guardian and will ensure that you will have plenty to chat about afterwards at the taverna.
The Acropolis Family Style
The tour company Kids Love Greece takes advantage of those myths and legends on their tours of the main sites and through central Athens. Their 3-hour tour of the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum is led by specially trained guides who practice interactive storytelling. Don’t worry about losing the learning aspect of the museum though; the stories include accurate and important facts about the birth of democracy, daily life in ancient Greece, the Athenians’ fascinating ceremonies, as well as some (age-appropriate) mythology.
Kids Love Greece also organize other activities that are all about play, such as the “Day in the life of an ancient Athenian” tour (2 1/2-3 hours), which includes theatrical games, creative arts and crafts, and puzzle solving on the beautiful Pnyx hill, as well as the “Greek Mythology Comics Workshop” (2 hours) which takes place at the Comics Library.
Games & Toys in the Ancient Agora
On this tour, organized by Discover Greek Culture, the open-air site of the ancient marketplace (agora), becomes a playground where kids “discover” facts about life in ancient Greece, as well as about archaeology – all through games.
It also takes them on a visit to the Museum of the Ancient Agora and the temple of Hephaestus. The tour takes 3 hours and is best suited for children between six and eleven years old.
Tel. (+30) 211.215.3585 (Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:00) or (+30) 697.012.0878, www.discovergreekculture.com.
Prices: 1 child + 1 adult is €100, 1 child + 2 adults is €120.
Treasure Hunting in the Old Neighborhoods of Athens
Treasure hunting is one of the specialties of tour company Be A Greek. Their treasure hunts for kids are led by a qualified children’s experts who will teach them all about the gods of Mount Olympus, as well as life in ancient Greece (when groups of two or more kids take part, they are split into competing teams, all supervised by a member of the Be a Greek team).
The map covers a large part of central Athens, and various activities take place all over town. Aside from the important map, the kids are also given a pack of other goodies that they use for activities such as learning how to write their names in ancient Greek.
The treasure hunt takes 4 hours, including snack time and breaks as needed, and is customized to suit the age of the participants. They recommend their tours for kids 5 years old and up, although if a sibling is younger they make it work. Parents are also encouraged to join the teams. The hunts are available in English, Italian, and Greek.
1 Bakou Georg., Nea Filothei, Tel. (+30) 694.833.2630, www.beagreek.com
The Happy Train
What kid doesn’t love trains? The red, toy-like train sets off from Ermou Street (the central pedestrianized street off Syntagma Square), and takes you on a tour through the center of Athens, passing by many of the main sights, such as the parliament, some of the biggest museums, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Lantern of Diogenes, and the Plaka neighborhood.
The best part about it is that it is hop-on-hop-off, so you can use it as your transport between the sights. A warning though: your kids might be extra eager to leave the museums quickly and get back on the road.
The complete ride takes 40 minutes, but your tickets last for 10 hours, so feel free to split the fun up and enjoy it all day long.
Tickets are €5 per adult and €3 per child. The train runs from 09.00-21.00 in the winter and from 09.00-23.00 in the summer.
Tel. (+30) 213.039.0888-3, www.athenshappytrain.com
After visiting the biggies like the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, the mention of yet another museum might elicit an eye-roll. But there are a number in the city that are perfectly suited for kids, so if it’s a rainy day, you should follow the classics up with one of these:
Herakleidon Museum & Annex
The exhibition “I Play and Understand” for children from four years old and up, at the Herakleidon Museum, focuses on helping kids understand the basics of sciences such as math and robotics, and their real world functions, through experiments and other playful, interactive activities. They will also learn about the history of the sciences, and the ancient Greeks who started it all.
As the museum website writes, “The originality, as well as the uniqueness of the exhibition, lies in the manner in which the visitor, in playing and interacting with the special exhibits, experiences the inter-relationship of science, art, mathematics, and philosophy…”
16 Iraklidon, Thiseio, metro station Thiseio, tel. (+30) 210.346.1981, www.herakleidon-art.gr. Admission is €6 per child, adults enter for free when escorting a child. Open daily 10.00-18.00.
Goulandris Natural History Museum & Gaia Center
Take the half-hour train ride to the leafy suburb of Kifissa, and visit the Goulandris Natural History Museum. Young visitors here will gasp with excitement at the sight of the 7.16 meter Triceratops replica – a dinosaur that’s part of the permanent exhibit of paleontology specimens. The museum also features exhibits focused on zoology, marine life, botany, ornithology, entomology, and herpetology.
The environment-themed Gaia Center down the road features interactive exhibits, and you can enter both museums with a combination ticket.
13 Levidou, Kifissia, metro Kifissia, Tel. (+30) 210.801.5870, www.gnhm.gr. Admission is €6 (adults), €4 (children). Open Tue-Fri 9.00-14.30, Sat & Sun 10.00-15.00.
Hellenic Children’s Museum
Kids from the age of two and up will enjoy this museum in the Plaka neighborhood, below the Acropolis. The rooms all have different themes, and all use interactive play to help children learn in creative ways.
There is a room that functions as a play grocery store, another that looks like a bakery. There is a “construction site” and a water play area… and much more! The exhibits are in Greek but most of the museum staff speak English, and will help you with anything you need.
14 Kydathineon, Plaka, metro station Syntagma or Acropolis, tel. (+30) 210.331.2995, www.hcm.gr.
Admission is Free. Open Tue-Fri 10.00-14.00, Sat & Sun 10.00-15.00.
Eugenidis Digital Planetarium
The Eugenidis Planetarium is popular with kids and adults alike, and is regularly visited by students of all ages. The technology is highly advanced, as they recently installed a cutting-edge system comprised of six Barco F90-W13 projectors, which use a laser-phosphor light source.
The shows combine education with entertainment, sharing the latest discoveries and developments in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics and space science while also raising awareness about a number of environmental issues.
Some of the screenings are in their original English, although most are dubbed into Greek so it’s best to call in advance to find out.
387 Syngrou Avenue. Paleo Faliro, tel. (+30) 210.946.9600, www.eugenfound.edu.gr
Admission is €6-8. Open Wed-Fri 17.30-20.30, Sat & Sun 10.30-20.30
The Benaki Toy Museum
This new museum, housed in a 19th century villa that resembles a castle, in the Palaio Faliro neighborhood, has a collection of over 20.000 toys, of which about 3000 are always on display. They date from Roman and Byzantine times up until to the middle of the last century, and include everything from hand-painted dolls to model trains and puppets.
14 Poseidonos & Tritonos, Palaio Faliro, Tel.: 212.687.5280. Admission is €9. Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10:00–18:00.
Rides and Rollercoasters
Allou Fun Park
A visit to an amusement park is the kind of fun activity that can easily be disguised as a reward for your kids. In all truthfulness however, it is just as fun for adults.
At Allou, Greece’s largest amusement park, there are games for kids of all ages, and some rides that are sure to get adults’ adrenaline pumping as well. Suspended in the air at a height of 72 meters, and moving at up to 30 kilometers per hour in one of the swings of the Star Flyer (from 9 years and 130cm), you will enjoy one of the best views of Athens there is. That is, if you don’t close your eyes to cope with all the spinning.
La Isla (from 8 years) gets you wet, so bring some spare clothes to be on the safe side. Many other attractions will keep you busy for hours, and when you need a break from the adrenaline, you can enjoy all the other amusement park classics such as the Mirror Forest, the House of Fear, tons of arcade games, and properly unhealthy food. The youngest kids will love Kidom, which has games and carousels, and trampolines.
95 Dimokratias Str., Tel. (+30) 210.809.2888, www.allou.gr/en.
Open Mon – Fri 17.00-22.30 & Sat – Sun 10.00-23.00. A daily pass for all the games is €19, and €16 for just the games at Kidom.
Breaks at the playgrounds
There are many free playgrounds scattered across the center (you’re sure to pass by the small one on Apostolou Pavlou Street, in Thiseio), but to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and play in peace, these are our two favorites:
If you’re near Syntagma Square: National Gardens
Arguably the best playground in Athens, the one in the National Gardens, in the very center of the city, is clean and big. Once inside the lush green park, which is home to turtles, exotic birds, frogs, fish and other animals, and features a wide diversity of plants, a cafe, and ancient ruins, you will feel like you’ve left the city for a while. Make sure to also pass by the central duck pond and the mini-zoo featuring goats, peacocks and other domesticated animals.
Entrances from Amalias Avenue & Irodou Attikou , Metro Syntagma. Admission is free. Open sunrise to sunset.
If You’re in Koukaki: Six Threshholds
This is a small playground, with just a few modern toys and structures for kids to play on, but if you’ve taken the detour from Acropolis into the Koukaki neighborhood to visit the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, this is the perfect place to stop and regain your strength while the children play. It is part playground, part art installation, inspired by Pieter Bruegel’s 1560 painting “Children’s Games”. It is not suitable for very small children.
2 Kallisperi, Koukaki
Family Friendly Restaurants
Forget about filling hungry stomachs with the contents of happy meals. Some of the best food in the city can be found at restaurants that are just as much fun for kids to visit as for adults.
Yoleni’s Flagship store
Famous for the excellent sandwiches and pies served on the ground floor and the fantastic steak bar on the first floor, with dry-aged meat options that you’ll dream of for weeks, there is more to Yoleni’s than its excellent food.
On the third floor, kids between the aged of 3 and 9 can spend their time in the play area, supervised by trained staff, while you dine and shop (there is also a large grocery store featuring all manner of delicacies). They’ll give you a pager that will buzz if your kids need you – but they probably won’t.
9 Solonos, Kolonaki, Tel. (+30) 212.222.3622, http://www.yolenis.com/en-gr. Open Mon-Fri 08.00-00.00, Sat 09.00-00.00 & Sun 10.00-20.00.
Don’t let the logo (featuring a hemp leaf) of this unique restaurant scare you away. It is simply a reference to the hemp flour used in their pizza crust, bread, and pasta. It doesn’t give you a high, but you and your kids will be giddy with delight once you taste the scrumptious food at this beautiful restaurant in the neighborhood above the Panathenaic Stadium.
The space is big, with three floors and a lovely terrace to discover if your young ones need to stretch their legs. And the best part: these pizzas and pastas are actually healthy, so go nuts and let everyone eat as much as they can!
2 Ferekydou, Kallimarmaro, Tel. There is also a second location at 76 Emmanouil Benaki, Exarchia. Open every day 13:00-01:00.
This café in the Psyrri neighborhood is not like any other. No matter the season, they are constantly changing their décor – and when they do, they go all out. At Christmas, it’s a winter wonderland, for Easter, chickens and eggs take over the space, on Halloween it’s a haunted house, and if it’s not a holiday they make something up.
It’s always over the top, always fun, and always just as popular with kids as with adults. It would almost be worth a visit even without the snacks, but since you’re here, have some amazing desserts.
And if that’s not enough you can check out more family friendly Athens restaurants here.
17 Karaiskaki, Tel. (+30) 210.321.4144. Open every day 09.00-00.00.
Of course, just because you’re spending your holiday (or part of your holiday) in the city, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on beach time. The Athens Riviera is dotted with great sandy beaches, and if you keep going south, to the suburbs of Voula, Varkiza, or all the way to Sounio, you will find beaches that are so lovely you won’t be able to tell the difference from being on an island.
If you prefer to stay in central Athens, you can have a nice swim at one of the pools around town.
Any of the beaches on the Athens Riviera will please your kids. If you want to really give them a treat however, we recommend Yabanaki. At this beach in the southern suburb of Varkiza, the seaside is transformed into a playground full of toys and bouncy castles, banana rides and paddle boats. You can also get a windsurfing lesson here, or try waterskiing.
It is supervised by lifeguards, and the wide range of snacks and refreshments will keep everyone’s energy level up. Entrance is €5 per person including sun loungers an an umbrella on weekdays. From morning until 19.00 on weekends, however, the entrance is €6, and an umbrella is another €5.
Akti Varkizas, Tel. (+30) 210.897.2414, www.varkizaresort.gr
If you prefer not to leave the city center, you can still go for a swim. Your best bet for a stunning pool area is at one of the high-end hotels, and the Hilton Hotel offers the largest one, combined with a luxurious food and drinks menu.
The pool is open from 08.00-21.00 during the months of June, July and August, and 09.00-20.00 during the months of May, September and October. For non guests entrance is €25 per person on weekdays and €40 per person on weekends.
46 Vasilissis Sofias Ave, Tel. (+30) 210.728.1812