1. Thinks to know before visiting
The first necessary steps that will make your trip to Greece easier
Your travel agent, the local Greek Embassy or consulate, are the first stops you should make if you need a visa to visit Greece. After passing passport control at Athens International Airport you collect your luggage at your designated carousel and proceed through customs.
According to European Regulations, all travelers entering or leaving the European Union with more than €10.000 in cash, must declare the amount to Customs. Keep in mind that customs controls at Greek points of entry distinguish between goods bought within the EU and outside the EU.
If you plan to rent a car and/or drive in Greece, you should bring your national driver’s license as well as an International Drivers License. If you’re a university or college student, be sure to get an International Student ID card from your school, which offers you great discounts at museums, archaeological sites, travel, and more!
Stay in Anafiotika, a place with a character in Monastiraki area
2. Money & Credit Cards
Money and currency tips for the visitor in Athens and Greece in general.
Europe was an ancient Greek princess, mother of the King Minos of Crete, so it is only natural that the currency in Greece is the euro! If you arrive from a non-euro area you will need to convert your currency to euros.
There are several options for locations to exchange money, just make sure that you bring your passport as you need it anytime you exchange currency. At the airport you will find banks, ATMs, and currency exchange booths in the Arrivals area.
Travellers’ checks and credit cards issued by major companies are also widely accepted in Athens and all over Greece. Personal bank checks however are not widely used in Greece and are not generally accepted in shops and supermarkets.
When exchanging money, ask whether you will pay a straight commission, percentage commission, and what exchange rate will be used. Most banks will charge a flat fee and use the exchange rate issued that day by the central Bank of Greece.
3. Shopping Hours
Plenty of opportunities to do your shopping in Athens
To do your shopping in Athens you need…money, so let’s first check banking hours. Banks open Monday through Friday from 8 am till 2:30 pm, but on Friday they close earlier at 2 pm.
No need to worry though: there are a handful of branches in the downtown area that remain open until 7 pm during the week and 10 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. Department stores and some shopping malls in Athens are open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Saturdays.
All stores are closed on Sundays, except shops in tourist areas, that offer plenty of shopping opportunities for the visitor. Tourist shops in the historic center of Athens are open seven days a week as are most restaurants in the same area, with stores opening as early as 8:00 am and closing as late as 11:00 pm. Some restaurants stay open way past midnight, or until the last customer is ready to leave!
4. Ways to visit the historical center
Easy ways to explore the historical center of Athens
This video is about all things to see in Athens in a very unique and quick way. A good map and some background reading is all you need in order to visit the essential spots of Athens’ historical center.
This journey through history can be easily done on foot as this area is quite compact, but there are other means available if your feet are unwilling! Guided bus tours are available through hotels and various travel agencies, and if your budget allows it you can arrange private tours with a licensed guide.
Ideal for sightseeing the historical center from up high is the red double-decker bus, where you just buy one ticket and hop on and off at any stop you like. A more romantic approach is that of the little train that drives around the inner part of the historical center, a means that your kids will certainly adore.
If you want to zip around ancient Athens with a futuristic vehicle you can take a Segway tour and roll to all the sites instead of walking, quite a fast way to see it all! If you decide to explore the historical center on your own, be sure to check the opening hours of various archeological sites and museums, as they vary depending on the time of year.
5. Top 5 jewelry gifts worth shopping
Greek Jewelry: a centuries old tradition and the best gift to take back home
Greece has a long tradition in jewelry making, dating back to ancient times. Actually, exquisite and elaborate pieces of jewelry can be found in the major museums of the country, even from the Mycenaean and Minoan periods, to the classical period and the Byzantine times.
What is most intriguing is that some of the basic patterns that inspired the jewelry makers of older times, are still present in modern Greek jewelry: the serpent, transformed into beautiful bracelets or necklaces, or the geometrical pattern of Meander, known as the Greek key design, used in many styles.
Byzantine style jewelry is more elaborate and adorned with precious stones. Greece was one of the first countries in history to issue its own coins for everyday exchanges, and copies of these masterful coins are embedded in wonderful pieces of jewelry.
What could be a better gift to take back home than a piece of Greek handmade jewelry? There is an abundance of jewelry stores in the historical center of Athens as well as in all the main tourist areas of Greece.
Stay in Monastiraki, a place with many shops in the historical center of Athens
6. Top 5 Athens Monuments
Five not-to-miss stops in Athens if you are short of time
This video recommends the must see monuments of Athens. Even if your visit to Athens is only limited to one hour, don’t miss the hill!
That is the stony Acropolis hill, in the very center of town, with the world famous Parthenon temple, its imposing presence seen from every corner of Athens. A close second, is the famed marketplace of Agora, a standing testament to Athens’ status as a cradle of Western civilization.
It was, in Socrates and Plato’s day, the heart of public life, and among the site’s extensive excavations you’ll find the temple of Hephaestus, almost fully intact.
The largest temple of Greece, the temple of Zeus, very close to Syntagma square, is of great historical interest and is close to the fourth monument, the Panathenaic Stadium, located on the site of an ancient stadium.
The most humble of our proposed spots is another hill, Likavitos, which however offers breathtaking views of Athens all the way down to the port of Piraeus.