Where to Stay in Athens: Your Complete 2020 Guide Written by a Local

Where to Stay in Athens
Where to Stay in Athens

Deciding where to stay in Athens is likely to be one of your main concerns when planning a trip to the Greek capital. At first glance, the city looks like a vast urban sprawl. 

It can be overwhelming to review all of the various districts and suburbs of Athens. Choosing the best place to stay in Athens can be a source of many headaches. 

Where to Stay in Athens

Where to Stay in Athens travel guide 

The New Acropolis Museum, Athens
The New Acropolis Museum, Athens

The historic city of Athens is arguably the most underrated capital in Europe. The city seems gritty and edgy at first. However, scratch beneath the surface and Athens has far more to offer than meets the eye. 

Athens attractions such as the Acropolis, the winding streets of old Plaka, and the Roman Agora are a highlight of any Athens itinerary. However, it is the quaint Athenian neighbourhoods that steal the hearts of many visitors. 

Quintessentially Greek districts such as Koukaki, Glyfada, and Paleo Faliro are bursting with charm and character. Each district has its own personality and central square. Making a thoughtful choice about where to stay in Athens enables you to experience the city like a local – all while supporting local businesses. 

Where to Stay in Athens:
About this Guide

Athens is the oldest European capital city

I have lived in Athens for more than three years. I moved to eclectic Pagrati in 2017. Since then, I’ve gotten to know the city like the back of my hand. 

This guide discusses the best areas to stay in Athens. It describes what you can expect in each district, and then provides some suggestions for Athens hotels and accommodation options in each one. 

This guide is fairly comprehensive. It covers everything from Athens’ well-known central districts, to overlooked areas that only the locals are aware of. Feel free to use the Table of Contents above to navigate to the most relevant sections.

The Best Athenian Neighbourhoods

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

Each of the Athenian neighbourhoods discussed in this guide offer all of the necessary amenities to ensure that your trip to Athens is a comfortable one. They are also very safe, and suitable for all types of travellers (solo females, families, older couples, etc). I would just advise you to be more careful when walking at night if you stay in the central districts of Monastiraki, Syntagma, Psiri or Plaka. 

You can expect excellent public transport links from each of these districts to Athens centre and Eleftherios Venizelos airport. Homely local tavernas, cosy coffee shops, evening entertainment, and bars are abundant in each area. If you want to feel “like a Greek” during your trip, it is advisable to stay a little further afield than the most central areas.

Overview of Athens’ Best Districts

  • Koukaki – Quirky stores, bars and art galleries under the shadow of the Acropolis

  • Nea Smirni – Quintessentially Athenian district whose central plaza boasts many excellent tavernas and coffee shops
  • Pagrati – Local markets, charming coffee places, and a great local vibe

  • The Mets – A leafy, sleepy Athenian district loved by artists and intellectuals
  • Plaka – Quaint houses and narrow streets that intertwine in the city’s historic centre
  • Psiri – Street art, eclectic themed bars, and an edgy alternative vibe
  • Vouliagmeni – Beautiful coastlines and pristine beaches
  • Kolonaki – Stylish neighbourhood with swanky nightlife and designer shopping
  • Kifissia – Chic upscale neighbourhood with tree-lined boulevards and relaxed vibes
  • Hilton – Sophisticated neighbourhood with award-winning restaurants and upscale bars

  • Syntagma – The main central district of Athens
  • Monastiraki – Central neighbourhood with ample shopping and entertainment options.

  • Paleo Faliro – Off the beaten path upscale coastal area with wonderful beach bars

  • Glyfada – Elegant shopping and nightlife district in the Athenian Riviera 
  • Gazi– Athens’ main nightlife and entertainment district 

  • Zografou – Cheap and cheerful student district filled with coffee shops and dive bars

  • Piraeus – Bustling port area filled with tavernas, shops, and restaurants.

  • Exarchia – Alternative nightlife scene, and thought-provoking street art

  • Metaxourgio – Great neighbourhood for budget travel and street art. Emerging art scene

  • Neo Psychiko – High-end, quiet residential district with many classy bars and restaurants

  • Voula and Vari – Peaceful beach towns away from the maddening crowds

Athens Neighbourhoods

Looking out to Mount Lycabettus from the slopes of the Acropolis in Plaka
Looking out to Mount Lycabettus from the slopes of the Acropolis in Plaka

The Mets

The Mets is a tiny, leafy suburb that sits between Pagrati and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Blink and you’ll miss it. 

This area is so small that most tourists are not even aware of its existence. However, Athenians consider the Mets as one of the best places to venture for evening drinks and coffees.

When the sun goes down, join the locals for an evening tipple at Kain. Alternatively, head to Skyfall for moonlit cocktails on a rooftop overlooking the Acropolis.

Kifissia

Those looking for the best place to stay in Athens that is away from the chaos of the city centre will certainly enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and elegant ambiance of Kifissia. Kifissia is often referred to as being the Beverly Hills of Athens. Like Kolonaki, Kifissia attracts a well-dressed crowd.

The tree-lined promenades of Kifissia are home to swanky cocktail bars, chic coffee places, and upscale stores. Stepping into Kifissia feels like stepping into another city altogether. The best part about this neighbourhood? Virtually no international tourists know about it!

Kifissia is well-linked to the centre, but it has its own nightlife and social scene. This is a wonderful place to spend your Athens vacation if you want to get away from the crowds.

Budget Hotels in Kifissia, Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Kifissia, Athens

Luxury Hotels in Kifissia, Athens

Koukaki

Where to Stay in Athens - Koukaki
Koukaki

The orange tree-lined promenades of Koukaki are home to some of Athens’ most creative spaces. This looks like a relatively nondescript residential district at first. However, a little exploration uncovers Koukaki as the heart of the Athens art and culture scene.

The centre of Koukaki is its namesake Koukaki Square on Georgaki Olympiou Street. Tropical shrubbery hides the facades of the local bars and restaurants, while oriental-style lanterns and fairy lights illuminate the trees. Koukaki feels like a little tropical paradise, even in the winter months.

The bars here follow all sorts of weird themes. You can find everything from New Orleans style jazz bars to Noah’s Ark style eccentric cocktail lounges.

Koukaki is also the best place for international cuisine in Athens. Restaurants here serve up authentic dishes from around the globe.

Budget Hotels in Koukaki Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Koukaki Athens

Luxury Hotels in Koukaki Athens

Gazi

Gazi is one of Athens' trendiest neighbourhoods
Gazi is one of Athens’ trendiest neighbourhoods

Gazi has blossomed over the last few years. This district has fast emerged as Athens’ premier nightlife and entertainment district. By day, Gazi exudes a laid back, boho air.

Young, trendy Athenians sip coffee in the eclectic coffee shops that surround Avdi square and dine at the area’s contemporary modern restaurants. By night, the streets of Gazi come alive.

This is the place with the highest concentration of bars and clubs in central Athens. Gazi boasts a little something for everyone.

Luxury Hotels

Budget & Backpacker Choices

Zografou

Zografou sits to the south of central Athens. It is located close to Pagrati, Hilton, and Kolonaki. The area attracts a youthful crowd on account of its proximity to the Kapodostrian University of Athens.

This is one of the most affordable places to stay in Athens and a popular spot among students. Drink beers with locals at one of the dive bars here, or smoke shisha at one of the many Arabian style smoking lounges. Staying in Zografou also puts you in close proximity to Mount Imettus and Kaisariani Monastery – one of the best hikes in Athens.

Luxury Hotels in Zografou

Mid Range Hotels in Zografou

Vouliagmeni

Vouliagmeni is an upscale coastal area in Southern Athens
Vouliagmeni is an upscale coastal area in Southern Athens

Vouliagmeni is a beautiful coastal area that sits just 20km south of downtown Athens. This pine-clad peninsula boasts cerulean waters and incredible views over the Saronic. 

Vouliagmeni is essentially Greece’s very own Cote d’Azur. It is beloved by a well-heeled crowd who spend time at the private beach clubs, and fine dining restaurants by the coast. The likes of Frank Sinatra and Brigette Bardot are the caliber of people who have vacationed here over the centuries.

If you want to combine luxury beach travel with a city exploration, Vouliagmeni may well be your perfect Athenian base. 

Luxury Hotels in Vouliagmeni

Mid-Range Vouliagmeni Hotels 

Piraeus

Street art in Piraeus

Piraeus is a great place to base yourself in Athens if you are planning on visiting the Greek islands. Ferry routes from Piraeus port take you to the Cyclades and the Saronic islands in just a couple of hours. 

Metro Line 1 (Green line) takes you from Piraeus to central Athens in less than an hour. You can easily get to and from the Acropolis, Syntagma, and other central attractions in a day. 

Enjoy an afternoon stroll around the colourful Kastella district. Spend your evening sipping cocktails in upscale Mikrolimano, and haggle your way through the eclectic Piraeus flea market.

Mid-Range Hotels in Piraeus

Hotel prices tend to be cheaper in Piraeus. This is a perfect place for budget travellers.

Budget Hotels in Piraeus

Glyfada

The coastal town of Glyfada is situated just thirty minutes out of Athens city centre. It is easily accessible via the metro or the tram. Glyfada is referred to as the “Hellenic Hamptons” and is a popular hangout spot for the Athenian elite.

Boutique shopping, glamorous international eateries, and beachfront cocktail bars make Glyfada a perfect base. This area also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches close to Athens.

Mid Range Hotels in Glyfada

Luxury Hotels in Glyfada

Hilton Neighbourhood

Everything about the Hilton area exudes class. The district gleans its name from the nearby Hilton hotel.

Some of the finest restaurants in Athens can be found here. Opting to stay in the Hilton district places you just a short walk away from the central Syntagma square and upscale Kolonaki.

Budget Hotels in Hilton, Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Hilton, Athens

Luxury Hotels in Hilton, Athens

Pagrati/Vyronas

Where to Stay in Athens: Pagrati
Pagrati

Pagrati and Vyronas are perfect for your stay in Athens if you want to experience a truly Greek suburb that is bursting with local life.

Antique shops, independent art galleries, and boutique stores run down the main promenade of Filolau. The two adjacent neighbourhoods practically merge into one. Head to Plateia Varnava on a Friday or Saturday night to enjoy bouzouki music and ouzo with the locals.

Mid Range Hotels in Pagrati, Athens

Luxury Hotels in Pagrati, Athens

Syntagma

Where to Stay in Athens: Syntagma
Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is the beating heart of central Athens. The city’s main subway station can be found here.

Syntagma’s piazza hosts many events and festivities during the year such as live musical performances, artisanal markets, and food festivals.

All of Athens’s main attractions are just a short walk away from here. The Grek Parliament building sits directly opposite Syntagma. The Acropolis, the National Gardens, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are all just a few minutes away.

Backpacking Hostels in Syntagma Athens

Budget Hotels in Syntagma Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Syntagma Athens

Luxury Hotels in Syntagma Athens

Makriyianni

Where to Stay in Athens
Charming Makiryianni

Makriyianni is the Athenian neighbourhood that houses the Acropolis and the glittering glass structure of the Acropolis museum. You may assume that a place so close to the main tourist attractions would be incredibly crowded. However, Makriyianni’s leafy promenades remain relatively quiet and undisturbed.

After a busy day of Athens sightseeing, you can enjoy a pleasant evening walk along the tree-lined promenade of Dionysiou Areopagitou. Here, buskers play acoustic and traditional Greek songs, while street performers do magic tricks.

This artsy neighbourhood is a popular hangout spot among locals. It boasts dozens of patisseries, independent boutiques, art galleries, and upmarket eateries.

Budget Hotels in Makrygianni Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Makrygianni Athens

Luxury Hotels in Makrygianni Athens

Kolonaki

Where to Stay in Athens
Lycabettus

Kolonaki is to Athens what Beverly Hills is to Los Angeles. Situated on the slopes of Mount Lycabettus, this upscale district is the chicest in the city. Kolonaki oozes effortless elegance at every turn.

People watching while sitting beneath a cabana at one of the local coffee shops is a pleasant way to pass the time in Kolonaki. The exclusive cocktail bars and champagne lounges here are often frequented by Greek celebrities. Jazz in Jazz and Minnie the Moocher are particular local favourites.

The polished storefronts of the shops in the Kolonaki area showcase both luxury fashion (Gucci et al), and the works of high-end Greek Designers.

Budget Hotels in Kolonaki Athens

Mid Range Hotels in Kolonaki Athens

Luxury Hotels in Kolonaki Athens

Paleo Faliro

Paleo Faliro is an upscale coastal district. It is located halfway between Alimos and the Athenian Riviera. Few tourists know about Paleo. This makes it a perfect place to base yourself if you want to be off the beaten path.

Elegant storefronts line the streets of Paleo, along with fantastic tavernas and seafood restaurants that attract a well-heeled crowd. There are many wonderful beach bars and clubs in nearby Alimos. Head to Bolivar Beach Bar or Nalu for all-night beach parties and live DJs.

Luxury Options in Paleo Faliro

Mid Range Options in Paleo Faliro

Psiri

The little neighbourhood of Psiri is hidden behind Monastiraki square. It centers around Iroon Square and is arguably one of the city’s most vibrant districts.

Psiri has something of a punky underground feel to it. Many of the bars and pubs here are teeny tiny hole in the walls big enough to house just a handful of people. Alternatively, they are centered around a particular alternative music scene.

Psiri is one of the most bustling Athens nightlife districts. However, if you choose a hotel that is tucked away within its back streets, you don’t have to worry too much about noise and disturbances.

Mid Range Hotels in Psiri

Luxury Hotels in Psiri

Plaka

Where to Stay in Athens: Plaka
Old Plaka

The charming neighbourhood of Plaka is one of the oldest and most historic in Athens. The labyrinth-like network of narrow cobbled streets here leads you up towards Anafiotika and the Acropolis. From these points, you can enjoysome of the best views over the Greek capital.

Plaka has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. Ancient mosques and old Islamic ruins point th the area’s Ottoman past.

The bars in Plaka host numerous traditional performances for the benefit of tourists. You can find everything here from plate smashing to traditional Greek music and the chance to participate in a Zorba dance. Sitting outside one of these bars with homemade sangria and a good book is a perfect way to spend a relaxing evening in Athens.

Budget Hotels in Plaka

Mid Range Hotels in Plaka

Luxury Hotels in Plaka

Nea Smyrni

Nea Smyrni is as quintessentially Athenian as it gets. The tree-lined Karillou and Aghia Fotinis Squares are a popular rendezvous point among young Athenians. 

Although Nea Smyrni is home to plenty of coffee shops, boutique stores, and restaurants, the ambiance here is much less crowded and chaotic to the city centre. Both central Athens and the coastal areas of Paleo Faliro and the Athenian Riviera can be reached by tram that runs directly through Nea Smyrni. 

Exarchia

Exarchia is Athens’ most alternative district. Virtually every inch of wall space here is covered in street art. Furthermore, much of Exarchia’s graffiti is politically-motivated. 

Exarchia is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, that is not to say that it should be written off completely. Punky, edgy, and artsy, Exarchia is filled with alternative rock bars, stores selling old vinyl records, and homely tavernas. 

You should be cautious when exploring Exarchia, especially during political demonstrations. Clashes between anarchist groups and the police do happen from time to time. If you choose to stay here, be mindful of your surroundings and don’t walk alone at night. 

Luxury Hotels in Exarchia  

Mid Range and Budget Hotels in Exarchia  

Metaxourgio

Metaxourgio, like Exarchia, is an Athenian neighbourhood that does not have the best reputation. The area has worked hard to try and shake off its negative reputation.

In recent years, Metaxourgio has emerged as an “up and coming” art district. Dozens of independent art galleries line the streets and showcase the works of emerging Greek and international artists. The cheaper rent in this neighbourhood attracts young designers and entrepreneurs. 

Metaxourgio is still not perfect. However, the hotels here are very affordable. This can be a good option if you are exploring Greece on a budget. Take a cab back to your hotel in the evenings, and avoid walking around in the district at night and you will be fine.

Luxury Hotels in Metaxourgio

Budget & Mid Range Hotels in Metaxourgio

Getting Around Athens

Where to Stay in Athens - Koukaki neighbourhood
Koukaki

Athens has an excellent public transport network of buses, trains, and trams, all of which run on a frequent schedule. Consequently, you should not be deterred from staying somewhere which is not incredibly central.

Getting a cab from one area to another is seldom more than a few euros. I would advise you to download the “BEAT” taxi app for finding cabs. This app displays the price of the journey before getting into the car and helps you to avoid being ripped off by the cab drivers.

Alternative Accommodation Options

Where to Stay in Athens

If you prefer to travel like a local, you could also consider renting an Airbnb. This can give you a lot more flexibility during your time in Athens. It is also a good budget choice as you have the option to cook all of your own meals.

If you are new to Airbnb, High Heels & a Backpack readers can receive a generous $40 discount off their first Airbnb stay by signing up here.

What to Look for in an Airbnb

Athens is generally relatively safe. However, as with any city there are a few neighbourhoods that are a little grittier and should not be your first choice.

If you decide that you want to rent an Athens Airbnb, I would advise you to be extremely cautious when choosing properties in the city centre. Check the map to see the approximate location of your rental, and ask your host to clarify which neighbourhood it is in if you can.

There is a trend of Airbnb owners purchasing properties in Exarchia and falsely marketing it as a safe, hip area. While I do personally like Exarchia, it is prone to riots and clashes between locals and the police. As such I think everyone ought to know what they are truly going into. 

Parting Words

Organising your accommodation is a big part of planning a trip to Greece. As such, I’d recommend booking in advance where possible to secure the best deals.

Do you have any further questions about where to stay in Athens or how to create a Greece travel itinerary? Feel free to reach out to me via the comments below.

I live in Greece and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Safe travels. Geia sou, Melissa! xo

Disclaimer: This guide may contain affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase through one of the links on this page, I will receive a small amount of commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for understanding.


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

4 thoughts on “Where to Stay in Athens: Your Complete 2020 Guide Written by a Local”

  1. Hi Mellissa, thank you so much for writing this in a formative article on Athens. I am going to be sailing with some of my friends around the islands and spending two nights in Athens October 6 and seventh. I think the Riviera sounded the nicest to me because I would still like to be on a beautiful beach. I found one Airbnb in Glyfada. Apparently it is a historic home built in 1912 and it’s only 50 m from the beach not sure which one. There are six of us, two couples and two friends so we would need at least two private rooms with double beds or queen or king. My friend and I are not a couple so we would be OK with sofa beds or other. The place we found is $221 a night which I didn’t think was too bad. Not knowing Athens though I don’t know which beaches are the best so I would welcome any input from you.
    Much thanks,
    Diane Agius

    Reply
  2. Hello Melissa,
    Stumbled upon your site and all the wonderful content.
    My wife and I plan a trip to Greece from Sept 11-27, 2020 and have been talking to a few full service agencies in creating a great itinerary.
    I was wondering if you can suggest someone we can show these too (if not you) for feedback on what may be the best places to go, see and do.
    Thanks again for all your amazing content on Greece-really makes us even more excited to visit!
    Darryl-

    Reply
  3. Thank you for the informative write up. We r a family of 4 travelling to Athens from 26 nov to 10 dec. I am having trouble finding cruise dates to the various greek islands ie. Meterora, santorini, crete, Patmos. Without the cruise schedule I cant proceed to book accomodation….do you have any advice?

    Reply

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