Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


Visit Greece partnered with popular travel blogger Krista Simmons to explore the nation’s charming but lesser known islands, including Naxos, Spetses, Hydra and Milos. This is the first in her four-part series on undiscovered Greece, with this installment highlighting Athens, the hub of her island-hopping adventure.

If hopping around the Greek isles tops your travel bucket list — and let’s be honest, it should — you’ll likely be using the Greek capital of Athens as a launching point. But it’d be a shame to shoot straight to the port of Piraeus, bypassing the sights that one of the world’s oldest cities has to offer. Before boarding a Hellenic Seaways ferry to paradise (or a plane, if that’s your transpo of choice), here’s an insider’s look at what to do in this historic city.


Related: What the travel pros buy when they visit Europe.

Photo by Krista Simmons

What To See

A trip to the genesis of democracy and civilization as we know it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Acropolis of Athens, a humbling archeological site that dates back to the 5th and 6th centuries BC. The park consists of the Parthenon and several other temples and theaters that comprised the ancient city. In order to avoid summer hoards and get empty frames for shooting, it’s best to arrive early.

Photo by Krista Simmons

Photo by Krista Simmons

Either before or after making the trek up the hill, I suggest getting a sense of perspective and history at the recently minted Acropolis Museum, opened in 2007, which houses a mind-boggling collection of antiquities and salvaged pieces from the Parthenon itself, which sadly has been ravaged by various occupants over the years. Allow for at least a few hours to peruse the museum, which is itself an architectural phenomena; it’s the only museum in the world housed over an active archeological excavation.


That same spirit of artistry that inspired the ancient craftsmen at the Parthenon lives on at Melissino’s, a sandal maker that’s been open since 1920. It’s a steal to find custom leather work done so well at affordable prices (35/pair), so I picked two designs from one of 27 styles, and had my shoe’s leather worked to the dimensions of my feet. If Melissino isn’t busy, he’s been known to spin songs and write poems while working.

Photo by Krista Simmons

With my appropriate footwear in tow, I headed over to check out the Parliament, where the guards perform elaborately choreographed code of arm regularly. I personally prefer my leather kicks to their pom-pomed shoes, but they’re still cool nonetheless.


Photo by Krista Simmons

Where To Eat

For affordable, local eats, I wandered into Plaka, a name you’ll see often around the islands, as well, which basically means “flat area,” but also denotes the city center. There are gyro shops and tavernas galore (for a traditional version of the latter with great seafood and traditional Greek comfort dishes, I’d recommend Taverna Arsenis) but I stopped for a savory koulourakia, a butter-based pastry stuffed with shaved ham and cheese, at a small street stall near Kapnikarea church. (The chocolate version also looked pretty tempting, especially at only 2.) It was the ultimate portable treat to tote along as I wandered to Mnisikleous Street, the most photogenic, iconic area of Plaka, which is bustling with cafes serving the Greek namesake frappes, or iced coffees.


A vintage Greek book shop in Plaka/Photo by Krista Simmons

Cafe culture is HUGE in Greece, and Athens is no exception. Just walking around Plaka you’ll see that every shop has at least a handful of chairs facing the street for people watching and socializing. (You can check out this handy list of the city’s best cafes here.) There are also plenty of cool vintage book shops and more design-forward boutiques, like locally-made island wear from La Stampa or home goods from Pestemal, selling more high quality clothes than what you’ll find in the inner city.

Golden hour at The Intercontinental Athens/ Photo by Krista Simmons

Where to stay

If there’s a better place to rest in Athens than the Intercontinental, I’d be shocked: it’s centrally located. giving easy access to both the port at Pireus and the city center. And to top that all off, they have one of the coolest rooftop restaurants around. At Premiere, open Tuesday through Sunday, you can get sweeping cityscape views of the Acropolis during the summer and upscale, modernized Greek cuisine.

If you are in fact going to take a flight instead of going by sea, staying at the Sofitel across the street from the Athens airport is a breeze. The rooms are comfy and the service is top notch, and there’s no sense in stressing yourself out driving 45 minutes into the city, especially if this is your vacation.

How to get around

Hellenic Seaways operates countless boats that navigate the Greek island chains, and ferry tickets can be purchased in advance online. If you choose to fly, smaller airlines like Aegean offer affordable rates, as well. The cheapest and most effective way to get around Athens is the Attiko Metro subway, but if you’re budgeted on time and want to take a taxi, be sure to ask for a metered driver. There are unfortunately issues with drivers attempting to swindle tourists for more money. If you would like a personalized tour of the city, my guide Elsa Mastoridou was very thorough and speaks fluent English, French Italian, Spanish, and Turkish. You can email her at For a preview of what’s to come on our island adventure, check out the video below:

Tagged: Destinations, Europe, Feature, Greece

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Krista Simmons

Krista Simmons

Krista is a culinary travel writer based in L.A. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram @kristasimmons and on her blog at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *