Millions of travelers pass through Athens International Airport every year. Some of them hit the ground running to catch their next flight. Others end up with a little more time on their hands. If you find yourself in the Greek capital en route to somewhere else, there is a surprising selection of ways to squeeze in an express visit to Athens.
UP TO 5 HOURS TRANSIT
Five hours might not seem like a lot, but the location of the airport is ideal, not only for taking a break to do some shopping, but also to entertain the kids or even head to the countryside for a wine tasting session at an organic vineyard.
Join the Georgas family for a tour around its organic vineyard in Spata, on the capital’s eastern outskirts, close to Athens International Airport. The tour, lasting roughly two hours and organized by appointment, includes wine-tasting. A pick-up service from the airport may be arranged.
• Minimum number of participants: Four.
• Admission: €9 per person for tour and wine-tasting (five wines) accompanied by assorted homemade dishes. Extra charge for transportation to and from the airport.
Let’s go to the zoo
See over 2,000 animals of 400 different species housed at the Attica Park and combine your visit to the zoo with a picnic in its specially designed picnic area.
• Located approximately 10 minutes by car from Athens International Airport.
• Operating hours: Daily from 09:00 to sunset.
• Admission: €12–15 per person (discount prices for families and groups).
Shop ’til you drop
Shop for various items, or just head out for the ride, at the IKEA superstore near Athens International Airport.
Visit the capital’s McArthurGlen designer outlet village. Clothing, accessories and homeware – from a wide variety of brand names and designers – may be found at special prices. A children’s playground and a nappy-changing room operate within the facility.
• IKEA: Located at the superstore shopping complex close to Athens International Airport. May be reached by express buses X93, X95, X96 and X97 (which depart from the airport’s arrivals level, between exits 4 and 5), ticket price: €5
• McArthurGlen: The quickest, but most expensive, way to get to the discount village is by taxi, which costs roughly €22 for a 15-minute ride from the airport. The outlet may also be reached via a train-and-bus combination. Catch a suburban railway (Proastiakos) train at the airport to Doukissis Plakentias metro station (Line 3), which is a 20-minute ride from the airport (a return ticket costs €14), and from there get the 319 bus.
MORE THAN 5 HOURS TRANSIT
If you’ve got a little more time, the airport is well-connected with public transport to the city center where you can enjoy a whistle-stop tour of Athens’ most famous districts and landmarks.
Monastiraki can be reached without any changes by taking the Metro line from the airport. The metro stop sits right in the heart of the city’s best sights. Take the historic city center’s pedestrianized route and head up the hill to the Anafiotika neighborhood, below the Acropolis, which is filled with charming old little whitewashed houses whose tiny yards are graced by bougainvilleas. Make a pit-stop for fine Greek meze at Kafenio (1 Epiharmou) and don’t forget to order its renowned keftedakia (meat balls) with red sauce. Enjoy a coffee at one of the city’s most pleasantly surprising spots, the well-hidden art complex Metamatic:taf (5 Normanou). Its outdoor space, a typical example of a 19th-century Athenian courtyard, operates as a café-bar, while the spot’s interior hosts interesting exhibitions and other artistic events.
• Transportation: Line 3, 40 minutes from the airport
• Ticket price €14 return
Leave yourself in “expert” hand
Organized tours offered by agencies usually last between two and five hours, while, quite often, they can be adapted to the time constraints of customers. A variety of tours are available, including gastronomical walks, bicycle rides around the city’s most significant archaeological sites, walking tours and children-related tours.
Athens International Airport: Located 33 kilometers from downtown Athens (Syntagma).
• The travel time, each way, requires between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on whether you use a taxi, metro or bus.
Get off at the Acropolis metro station. Enjoy a stroll along one of the city’s most impressive pedestrianized streets, Dionysiou Aeropagitou St, which goes around the most significant archaeological site of the western world, the Acropolis. Complete your visit at the adjacent Acropolis Museum, where masterpieces of the ancient and classical Greek eras are on display.
If traveling with children, make the most of the children-related services listed in the brochures. Toy-filled bags may be borrowed while educational activities are offered. Finally, don’t miss out on seeing the Lego Acropolis replica on display. Consider a coffee break or meal at the restaurant, which offers a magnificent view of the Acropolis. On Fridays, the museum remains open until 22:00, while the restaurant is open until midnight.
• Transportation: Line 2, 41 minutes from the airport, ticket price €14 return
• Acropolis archaeological site: entrance fee €20, open daily 08:00–17:00, except on national holidays
• Acropolis Museum: entrance fee €5, Monday–Thursday 09:00–17:00, Friday 09:00–22:00, weekends 09:00–20:00 (valid for winter season, Nov 1–Mar 31)
Get off at Victoria station (green line), for a visit to the nearby National Archaeological Museum. Over 11,000 artifacts are on display, including the Antikythera Mechanism, the earliest preserved portable astronomical calculator; the Mask of Agamemnon, a gold funeral mask; the bronze Antikythera Youth statue; the Artemision Bronze, depicting Zeus or Poseidon; as well as the brilliant Akrotiri Frescoes. If you wish to combine your visit to the museum with a good meal, then Ama Lahi stis Nefelis (69 Kallidromiou,) about a 15-minute walk away, is a fine choice. Set up in a building that once housed the downtown Exarchia district’s primary school, this place serves Mediterranean meze, cheese platters and cured meats from all over Greece. Its freshly squeezed mandarin juice and chilled rice pudding are also recommended.
The spot boasts a spacious and charming front yard, used during the warmer months, with lemon trees. Time permitting, continue your stroll towards the neighboring Kolonaki district for a pit stop at the Petite Fleur café (44 Omirou St,), which serves the city’s best hot chocolate as well as wonderful sweets, in a smoke-free environment.
• National Archaeological Museum: Victoria Station, Line 1 (green line), 46 minutes from the airport
IF YOU PREFER TO STAY IN THE AIRPORT
If traveling with young children, they may be left to play for as long as they like at the airport’s playground on the second floor. Open daily 09:00–21:00.
For those who would like a taste of the Parthenon, a permanent exhibition focused on the Acropolis archaeological site is offered on the second floor. The items on display include replicas of stone blocks from the west frieze, a copy of the Peplos Kore statue, as well as a digital restoration of the latter. In addition, a collection of 172 original artifacts, from the Neolithic and post-Byzantine periods and discovered in the wider Mesogia area around the airport, is on display in the departures level (Entrance 3). Open daily 06:00–23:00.
If you’re bent on finding out who Eleftherios Venizelos is, a permanent exhibition on this significant statesman who shaped the course of modern Greek history and after whom the airport is named is housed in the departures level.